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Alternative Energy's Uphill Climb

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Many people are enthusiastic about the prospects of the alternative-energy industry, but two pieces of news today underscore the fact that the industry is young and complicated—and faces intense government regulation, from the federal level on down the line. First, The New York Times reports that the federal government has decided to halt the development on federal lands of new solar power plants for perhaps the next two years, while an environmental-impact study is conducted.

"[T]he decision to freeze new solar proposals temporarily, reached late last month, has caused widespread concern in the alternative-energy industry, as fledgling solar companies must wait to see if they can realize their hopes of harnessing power from swaths of sun-baked public land, just as the demand for viable alternative energy is accelerating," the Times reports.

The paper goes on to quote an executive at a Caliifornia solar company saying, "It doesn't make any sense. The Bureau of Land Management land has some of the best solar resources in the world. This could completely stunt the growth of the industry."

Meanwhile, plans to develop a $1.6 billion wind farm off the coast of Delaware have been approved. "Officials from Delmarva Power and Bluewater Wind announced details of their agreement in Newark, Delaware," CNN reports. "Bluewater spokesman Jim Lanard said the power company will get about 16 percent of its electricity from a field of 150 wind turbines, anchored in the seafloor about a dozen miles off Rehoboth Beach, Delaware."

A similar project off Nantucket was scrapped over not-in-my-backyard concerns that the turbines would mar the horizon, diminishing the natural beauty and perhaps the property values of an affluent and influential community. The company behind the project, Bluewater Wind, asserts that the turbines off Delaware's Rehoboth Beach will not be visible on summer days, and will only be faintly visible on clear winter days.

Will people make a bundle in alternative energy? Perhaps. But as these news items suggest, there's still a lot to be sorted out.

Last updated: Jun 27, 2008




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