As the new year approaches, it's time to think about what will come for green energy next year. On the small scale, I happen to agree with a commenter on this DailyGreen call for 2009 green predictions. The commenter predicts that solar bags will be the big trend of '09. I hope so -- they're just barely short of great right now.
But let's go to the big picture.
1. CLEANTECH STARTUPS WILL KEEP IT UP
TreeHugger calls out six cleantech startups to watch in 2009, saying that they'll build on the strength of a good 2008 for such companies. That's saying a lot -- 2008 was inconceivably terrible for just about everyone else.
OptiSolar: Planning one of the largest PV solar projects in the world, this start-up is one to follow in the upcoming year. We've seen OptiSolar do a few noteworthy things, and they're likely to make more big moves, especially as solar power increases in efficiency and ranking as an alternative energy source.
And that brings us to an interesting (and exciting) point, originally brought to our attention by the American Wind Energy Association:
2. COMPANIES WILL FIGHT FOR BIGGEST WIND AND SOLAR TITLES
"The world's largest operating wind power project" will be a hotly contested designation this year: At least one new project may soon surpass FPL Energy's 736-megawatt (MW) Horse Hollow wind farm, which has been the world's largest for three years running.
With companies vying for the title of largest operating wind power project and largest solar project, you'd think that wind could start to supply more than the current 1 percent of US power -- and that solar would register somewhere, too. More stats from the AWEA:
Wind is now a mainstream option for new power generation, second only to natural gas plants in new capacity built from 2005 through 2007, and probably again in 2008, pending year-end figures. Measured by market share, wind provided 35% of all new generation added in the U.S. in 2007. And with 7,500 MW of new capacity expected when 2008 figures are released, wind is likely to contribute at least 35% of new capacity added this year.
3. WE'LL FACE FACTS: A BORING REVOLUTION IS NEEDED
One problem is that with all of these bigger, bigger, bigger installations, the US will finally have to confront a crippling fact -- our energy infrastructure isn't up to snuff. I don't predict that the US will solve the problem, but it'll sure become evident.
Of course, T. Boone Pickens is a little more optimistic on this than I am.
4. POLITICIANS, HOWEVER, MIGHT NOT
Even TreeHugger is worried about the near future for green initiatives. With the financial system in so much trouble, it might become harder to use taxpayer dollars to accomplish much in the way of greening the economy. In TreeHugger's words:
The biggest setbacks, sadly, might be in sectors that have a big impact: Corporate investments in green, and political will.
When profits are falling and capital is hard to raise, companies simply don't invest as much in long-term green projects. Some money-saving efficiency investments might still happen, but R&D and investments with an uncertain or long return on investment might be scrapped.
On the state front, it's a lot harder to keep the environment on the radar during elections when everybody's concerned with the economy, and it's a lot harder to implement measures which would be more expensive (maybe not if you count "externalities", but that's still a harder sell) than alternatives because they are greener. Governments also tend to make really big promises when everything's going well and then quietly drop them or scale them back when things don't look as rosy.
OUR FAVORITE "SILVER LINING" PREDICTION
One of the most interesting predictions around the Web -- and the one we'll end with -- that the crippled economy will cause kids to play more in nature. You know, because their folks can't afford a Zune or a Wii. Or a house.