Lessons in sun, wind and collaboration power
By Todd Cardillo, Market Manager, Alternative Energy
Did you know that in 40 minutes the sun spills enough energy on the earth’s surface to provide our entire planet with energy for one year? Or that it would take 250 million barrels of oil (10 billion gallons) to generate as much electricity as U.S. wind turbines will generate this year?
Why are we not utilizing our natural resources more effectively? What I saw during a recent trip to ebm-papst’s global headquarters in Mulfingen, Germany offers a vision for what the United States could achieve.
Face time with my German colleagues gave me new information on world market trends in air movement, as well as insight on new projects. I also completed the company’s 17th annual marathon and finished in 1 hour 57 minutes and 12 seconds - my personal best.
However, what struck me most during this visit was how well Germany utilizes alternative energy. During the two-hour ride from Frankfurt’s airport to headquarters in Mulfingen, I saw multiple wind farms. Set back in the countryside’s rolling hills, the size and infrastructure of these huge turbines are amazing – they’re engineering marvels! It’s hard to believe that people in the United States call these an eyesore, or complain about the noise they emit. These seem like very minor issues compared to the benefits they provide.Solar power is also huge throughout Germany – the country is ranked #1 in the world for solar usage. Bloomberg reports that Germany managed to break its record for new solar installations in 2011 despite sizable reductions in subsidies for the industry.
It is very hard to drive (or run) through the villagesin Germany without seeing solar panels – they are everywhere! Germany’s large solar farms, commercial businesses and residential homes are all harnessing the sun for electricity. They have spent a lot of time and money to build this infrastructure. Now they’re reaping the benefits of low-cost, clean power.
Incentives play a BIG role in how far Germany has come in alternative energy use. In the United States, where we’re ranked #4 for solar power usage, we have federal tax rebates and similar solar incentives. In contrast
While Germany has concerns with the possibility that their solar incentives could be reduced by putting a one gigawatt-per year cap on new installations, we in the U.S. face an uncertain future for our Production Tax Credit (PTC). While the credit is due to expire this year, I am hopeful that it will be renewed by Congress.
The U.S. has come a long way in alternative energy use. Following Germany’s lead, it’s essential we continue to grow our alternative energy production and markets. Our population and economy will be better for it.