Solar Power: Will Water, Wind, and Solar Power Save Our Electric Grid?


What a great attraction electricity was as it finally made its debut in the 1901 World’s Fair. After the very first light bulb hit the streets of Saint Louis, how would we know that over 100 years later we would see headlines in our papers of citywide power outages due to overloaded power grids?  

Now, the debate is heating up about whether to spend the money to update our power grids, or allow them to keep deteriorating while we funnel money into renewable energy. Whatever happens, we need to be moving toward a greener American economic system, especially harnessing the resources of wind and solar power. 

Political forums are exploding with debates on energy conservation and going green to save the Earth, and these debates have already been met with some action from the American government.

The Obama administration is doing its part to fuel innovation by shelling out billions of dollars each year in grants for clean energy. In 2011,President Obama approved a $9-billion grant that created over 75,000 jobs. The grant focused largely on building "wind farms" and starting (or completing) photovoltaic projects designed to harness the power of the sun into clean and renewable energy. This was hot on the heels of a series of 2009 grants that utilized stimulus money to award funds to 25 companies for research and development and/or full-blown deployment of everything from wind farms, to solar energy plants or even plants that harnessed the energy of waves. 

The company receiving the most grant money through this series of grants (in 2009) was Pyron Wind Farm LLC, which received a total of approximately $122 million to unveil its high-powered wind turbines in what was previously considered "wasteland" in Texas. For Texas residents, this is good news, as this sort of power could become a major supplier of clean energy in the near future. Texas already gives its residents a choice of energy providers, but within a few years Pyron could show up on and other resources designed to help Texas residents decide which power provider works best for them.

According to the grant applications, Texas was deemed as an ideal place to research clean energy alternatives due to its abundant land that isn't fertile enough to farm, and most of which is too dry to cheaply support a large population. This land had largely remained unused until now. Not only was the land cheap due to its lack of water, Texas is also an ideal location for a wind farm due to a predominantly flat surface area and the prevalence of the Pacific winds.

Texas is equally ideal for solar "farms" as it has a lot of unused land, and gets its fair share of sunny days. A solar farm is essentially a large area that utilizes solar panels to absorb and process solar energy into clean and renewable power for homes in the area. These can also be hooked into the existing grid and used as a source to help subsidize coal, natural gas, and nuclear plants within the area. 

It won't be long before we have big decisions to make on the future of our power grid. Do we keep dumping money into a system that is dated? Or do we take a gamble on the future of clean energy by investing the money into these new initiatives? Only time will tell, but at some point the choice is no longer ours and the environment will dictate what's appropriate. Until then, we have to continue getting ready for the future, and our future almost certainly includes clean energy.