The United States has further demonstrated its commitment to renewable energy this week, as it pledges to funnel public investment toward the massive Ivanpah concentrating solar thermal (CST) power plant. Backed by private sector financing from the likes of Google, BrightSource’s latest CST project is set to be the world’s largest power tower.

The news comes just months after the US Department of Energy (DoE) awarded a 1.3 billion-dollar loan guarantee to Oregon’s Caithness Shepherd’s Flat Wind Farm. Upon completion, Shepherd’s Flat is also set to be the largest renewable energy development of its kind in the world. It will be capable of generating a massive 845 MW of energy – enough to power 235,000 homes. The wind farm is expected to be fully operational by no later than next year.

Lillgrund Offshore Wind Farm - Service ship en route to the wind farm

US commitment to large-scale renewable energy puts Australia’s efforts to shame. There are more plans for extensive implementation of renewable infrastructure making international news every week.

California’s recent decision that the a third of the state’s power should be run off renewable energy by 2020 looks to be relatively easily achieved. The Ivanpah CST plant, in lieu of the Government’s 1.375 billion-dollar loan guarantee, will generate 392 MW of energy to cater for 140,000 homes. Upon Ivanpah’s imminent plans to break ground, US President Obama illustrated the nation’s focus on renewables, declaring, “With projects like this one, and others across the country, we are staking our claim to continued leadership in the new global economy.”

“Others” has come to include the gargantuan Blythe CST plant – to be situated in California again – which also received funding in the form of a 2.1 billion loan guarantee this week. The Blythe CST plant will generate a whopping 1 GW of energy, powering 300, 000 homes.

Then there is the Atlantic Wind Connection project. A mammoth undertaking, the development has already attracted interest from powerful corporations – including Google again – who are to invest tens of millions of dollars in its construction. The Atlantic Wind Connection project entails a 350 mile power cable network linking offshore wind turbines along the US east coast. The underwater grid infrastructure will be, as a Google spokesperson puts it, “a super highway for clean energy”, capable of powering 1.9 million households from New Jersey to Virginia. Construction is expected to start in 2013.

Out of such developments, the US is building a solid foundation for a renewable energy economy. It is clearly evident that public investment is essential to kickstart such a revolution, partly as it inspires large, wealthy corporations to get on board. Australia must look to America’s example if it has a hope of establishing itself in the global market of the future. With Gillard’s carbon tax being the best bet of finding revenue to fund renewable projects, it’s high time the Government started designing a carbon price that will facilitate Australia’s renewable revolution as soon as possible.

– By Alice Body, freelance writer and BZE media volunteer

This article was first published on Beyond Zero Emissions

Beyond Zero Emissions Inc. is a not-for-profit, volunteer run organisation. Our core goal is to develop blueprints for the implementation of climate change solutions that will rapidly reduce emissions and give our society and global ecosystems a chance of surviving into the future. We also run broad-based education campaigns based on this research.

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