In the aftermath of the Japanese disaster, politicians around the globe have been debating the necessity of including nuclear as part of the transition to a clean energy future. Unlike other leaders who have placed moratoriums on the licensing of new plants, American politicians have largely stuck by nuclear–a consensus that perhaps was aided by a storm of nuclear lobbyists on Capitol Hill.
But, as of last month, the U.S. renewable energy industry has reached an important milestone: domestic production is now greater than that of nuclear power.
This milestone has been reached by important leaps in the renewable sector, particularly from solar-generated electricity which increased by 104.8 percent in the first three months of 2011 compared to the first quarter of 2010.
Renewable energy still has a long way to go before it catches up to fossil fuels but the recent jump in production could play a major role in a nuclear debate that has often denounced the ability of renewable energy to provide stable and sufficient power. While most people agree that nuclear carries inherent meltdown risks and poses the serious challenge of radioactive waste storage, support for nuclear power was at an all-time high among the American public before the disaster in Japan.
Last February, the World Wildlife Fund released a provocative energy report envisioning a future world run entirely by renewable energy, set in 2050. The report was quickly followed by two papers from professors at Stanford and UC Davis imagining a similar future but one solely reliant on already existing renewables, mainly solar and wind.
The tide is clearly changing with more academics, politicians and activists agreeing that renewable energy is the way of the future. Whereas nuclear power plants go for at least $10 billion a pop, community-owned solar initiatives like Solar Mosaic are building solar projects with investments as small as $100. I know where I’m putting my money…