Year in Review 2010: The Year in Clean Energy
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It was a record year for solar power, and the electric car began its comeback but, thanks to our increasingly desperate need for fossil fuels, 2010 also saw the largest accidental marine oil spill in history. We're getting closer to workable clean energy, but will we get there quickly enough? And can we do it without Congress's help?
With the economy hemorrhaging jobs, President Obama kicked off 2010 with the January announcement of $2.3 billion dollars in tax credits for companies building clean energy technology—everything ranging from turbine blades to batteries to solar panels.
It's not all just solar panels. Off the coast of Reedsport, Oregon, a New Jersey-based company called Ocean Power Technologies began building a wave-power farm, using giant plungers that rise and fall with the waves. It isn't operational yet, but the plan is for 10 of these generators to collectively power about 400 homes.
After a decade-long fight that pitted the Kennedy clan against clean energy developers, the Cape Wind project, an offshore wind farm planned for Nantucket Sound, finally got federal approval on May 17. It will likely be America's first offshore wind farm.
Image: A simulated view of the Cape Wind farm from Cotuit, Cape Cod.
Thanks to a feature on 60 Minutes, the "Bloom Box," a mysterious clean energy system embraced, on a small scale, by Google and eBay, makes a big splash in the media. It turns out to be a fuel cell system. How exactly it works—and whether it's cheap enough to be used more broadly—remains unclear.
On April 20, an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig caused a fire and an excruciating, interminable oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It wasn't until September 19 that the well was declared "effectively dead." The event prompts new questions about our increasingly risky strategies for getting fossil fuels.
photo from Wikimedia Commons
In October, Google announces an investment in an offshore "transmission backbone" for wind energy along the Atlantic coast. Wind farms could plug into this Atlantic Wind Connection to easily deliver clean power to customers on shore.
After the midterm elections in November, a full 50 percent of the Republicans in the senate deny the existence of man-made climate change. The prospect of a comprehensive energy policy passing dims considerably. A silver lining: California's landmark climate bill, A.B. 32, survives.
On December 11, Olivier Chalouhi of Redwood City, California, takes delivery of the first all-electric Nissan Leaf. Around the same time, Chevy ships it's long-anticipated plug-in hybrid, the Volt. The long process of shifting America's fleet off the internal combustion engine begins.