But, as North American Windpower gleefully reported, it died in committee.
Key to the story is the committee where it died, public utilities and energy. It died there because the state's electrical utilities, mainly Duke Energy
Duke has found out how to make money with renewables. Its non-regulated Duke Energy Renewables unit plans to double production from wind, solar and biomass projects this decade. Big customers including Google
It turns out solar and wind projects offer big advantages to electric utility companies. They can get a premium rate for solar power, whose supply peaks in the afternoon alongside the higher load of air conditioning. They can make a big profit from homes and businesses that install panels, paying off-peak rates for the same power.
Even the additional storage capacity needed to deal with such projects can become a profit center. A Department of Energy rule called FERC 890 effectively doubles the value of storage projects, which the agency lists at its energystorageexchange.org site.
Imre Gyuk, program manager for energy storage research at the Department of Energy, said in a recent Atlanta talk that there were 686 Mwatts of storage capacity online around the world as of March. He estimated that for every five watts of power available, one watt of storage is necessary to assure the stability needed by modern cloud data centers. But there is over 300 Gwatts of continuous load throughout the U.S. grid alone. The opportunity, in short, has barely been touched.
The cash, and profit from these operations doesn't fall within the regulations of state governments. AES Energy Storage, with the same corporate parent -- AES
Not every utility company is on board with this. Municipally owned CPS Energy in San Antonio is trying to cut what it pays homeowners for solar power, citing increased costs. Most of Texas' grid is isolated from that of the rest of the country, as seen in this Google Sites map.
While the profits from renewables can be high, so can be the risk in fighting them.
Pacific Gas & Electric
The San Francisco Bay Guardian calls the result a "dirty war", and it is the ultimate nightmare for utilities. Failure to buy renewable power, and to plan for it, risks a utility's long-term survival as a monopoly provider. And there are lots of ways to gain unregulated -- free -- cash flow from making, selling and managing renewable power.
Against that reality, ideology is powerless.
At the time of publication, the author was long GOOG and AAPL.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
- 11 Greenest Cars of 2013
- 10 Biggest Summer Blockbusters Without Superheroes
- 10 Major League Towns Where Baseball Doesn't Cost a Bundle
- Oil, Gas, & Consumable Fuels
- Utility Industry
- Duke Energy
- solar power