The Clean Energy Shell Game

Lisa Cohn discusses the clean energy shell game, and the players and power sources in the green power energy.

| August/September 2000

  • 181-048-1letf

  • Geothermal water coolers in Pahoa, Hawaii.
    Geothermal water coolers in Pahoa, Hawaii.
    PHIL DECGINGER/EARTH SCENES
  • Prices for wind power have dropped dramatically in recent years because of technological advancements.
    Prices for wind power have dropped dramatically in recent years because of technological advancements.
    LESTER LEFKOWITZ/THE STOCK MARKET
  • Solar thermal technology uses sun sunlight to produce hot water, heat for buildings or electric power.
    Solar thermal technology uses sun sunlight to produce hot water, heat for buildings or electric power.
    VCG/FPG
  • Large-scale solar energy facility in Daggett, California.
    Large-scale solar energy facility in Daggett, California.
    RUSSELL MUNSON
  • Large-scale solar energy facility in Daggett, California.
    Large-scale solar energy facility in Daggett, California.
    PHOTO: RUSSELL MUNSON
  • Large-scale solar energy facility in Daggett, California.
    Large-scale solar energy facility in Daggett, California.
    PHOTO: RUSSELL MUNSON

  • 181-048-1letf
  • Geothermal water coolers in Pahoa, Hawaii.
  • Prices for wind power have dropped dramatically in recent years because of technological advancements.
  • Solar thermal technology uses sun sunlight to produce hot water, heat for buildings or electric power.
  • Large-scale solar energy facility in Daggett, California.
  • Large-scale solar energy facility in Daggett, California.
  • Large-scale solar energy facility in Daggett, California.

Learn about the players and power sources that are part of the clean energy industry. Uncover the the possibilities of renewable energy.

For the first time in the history of the United States, electricity buyers have a choice. Now your power doesn't have to come from coal-, gas- and other fossil fuel-burning plants that serve as the largest industrial contributors to air pollution in the country.

Across the United States, buyers may now purchase "clean" kilowatt-hours from wind turbines perched atop ridges in Wyoming and Colorado, solar panels that cap parking structures in California, or geothermal power plants that harvest 500-degree underground temperatures.

According to the American Wind Energy Association in Washington, D.C., more than 140 utilities in the U.S. are now offering "green" power from renewable energy sources, while some unregulated energy companies are already operating in some states. Just look for power labels like Blue Sky, Wind for the Future and Salmon-Friendly Power, whose names are intended to evoke images of pure air, waste-free water, and rivers that nurture fish and wildlife.



Let's Make a Deal

Paul Komor, research director for E Source, a private energy information provider in Boulder, Colorado, says that the good news about the fledgling green power industry is that renewable energy is being developed all over the country. "Buying green power is the single best thing you can do with your money to help the environment," he adds.

Nevertheless, buyers may feel they need advanced degrees in environmental studies and economics to wade through an energy company's befuddling list of electricity alternatives, energy mixtures, pricing terms and sometime questionable claims about which kinds of power are truly "clean."






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