Over the past five years, renewable energy has seen a dramatic uptick in popularity around the world. From the massive new solar farms in India to the off-shore windfarms being launched off the coast of Scotland, the world is tapping into the potential that renewables hold in an unprecedented way.
However, they’re still very much a work in progress. The technologies behind solar panels, wind turbines, and even hydroelectric power are developing all the time, but relatively high costs and falling governmental subsidies around the world have slowed down the launch of new projects. A truly green future, while promising, seems a long way off.
This makes California’s wholehearted embrace of solar energy- all in the hopes of becoming completely carbon-neutral before the turn of the century- all the more remarkable.
As the world’s sixth-largest economy, California’s gross domestic product averages at $2.6tn. It is the most populous state in America, and the amount of energy that it consumes is massive: 290,000 gigawatt-hours, of which a third comes from natural gas and a quarter from renewables. Its commitment to going green should, therefore, be seen as a monumental decision that marks the culmination of years of change and hard work by people from all across the Sunshine State.
Committing to clean energy
On 10th September 2018, Jerry Brown, the Governor of California, signed SB100, a key piece of legislature, into law. Created by Senator Kevin de Léon, the bill is the crowning achievement of a fifteen-year journey towards green energy that started during the tenure of Arnold Schwarzenegger. The targets that it sets are ambitious: the new regulations will aim to supply California with 50% of its energy from renewable sources by 2026, with the ultimate aim of becoming completely carbon-neutral by 2045. That’s a mere thirty years away.
Crucially, California’s aim of becoming ‘carbon-neutral’ doesn’t entirely discount more traditional sources of energy. Instead, the state is planning to meet demand by combining renewable energy with geothermal and hydroelectric sources, nuclear power, and even natural gas, provided it has Carbon Capture and Storage capabilities in place. Though there’s been a fair amount of controversy in California’s decision to not commit wholly to renewables, it also opens the market to entrepreneurs, and for the next innovator to find and create a carbon-neutral solution to the state’s energy needs.
What’s in place?
In every way that counts, California is leading the way in green energy. 2017 saw $2.5bn invested in clean energy technology in the US, of which $1.4bn was in California. This is already having an impact in the projects being championed in the Sunshine State: thanks to new breakthroughs in technology, renewable energy is becoming cheaper, and as a result, solar and wind farms are springing up around the state. The new Springbok2 solar farm, for instance, covers more than 700 acres and is the first of its kind to produce green energy more cheaply than fossil fuels. It’s also planning to double its energy output over the next year with more developments, making the company behind it, 8minuteenergy, one of the largest renewable energy players in America.
Alongside this, California is also turning to other sources of green energy to secure a low-carbon future and meet climate goals. One of these areas is wind power. The trend for offshore wind power is really taking off here, with a new generation of engineers turning their attention to the biggest challenge yet: anchoring floating turbines in deeper waters than anything previously built. With numerous heavyweight companies eyeing up contracts to build a new fleet of these floating wind farms, there is huge potential for development in this area, and for talented engineers to make their mark.
What does the future hold for engineering?
As the craze for renewables spreads across California, oil and gas are falling behind: energy giants are closing gas plants across the state, and attempts to prospect for offshore are also being met with staunch opposition. Instead, green energy is taking up the space previously inhabited by fossil fuels.
This unique, changing market creates is a lot of opportunities for engineers looking to make their mark in renewable energy. As the Sunshine State takes great strides towards a greener future, the need for innovative engineers to find the solution to tomorrow’s energy problems will arise- as well as skilled ones to help build the solar and wind farms that are springing up around California. With everybody from civil engineers to Logistics Managers in demand, this growing industry is creating job opportunities in diverse and exciting areas.
All that’s waiting is for you to get involved and become a part of California’s green revolution.
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