Melissa Maynard was a GOVERNING contributor, working as a project reporter on the Government Performance Project, a project of the Pew Center on the States.E-mail: email@example.com
As states seek ways to meet their renewable-energy goals, solar and geothermal power may become major players--despite their expensive start-up costs.
So far, state renewable portfolio standards have been driving the market toward cheaper-to-utilize power resources such as wind. But if states are to meet the aggressive goals they are setting, they will have to cultivate a diverse portfolio of renewable resources. A recent study of state RPS's by the Berkeley National Laboratory estimates that, although most of the required energy will come from wind, 3 percent will come from solar power and 18 percent from geothermal energy.
Some states are actively moving in that direction. Texas, for instance, awarded its first land-lease--11,000 coastal acres--to a company to explore geothermal capabilities. The company, which paid $56,000 for the lease, has agreed to pay the Texas Permanent School Fund 10 percent of the profits from any electricity produced.
In Nevada, a $250 million solar plant began generating electricity in April. It can power 15,000 homes. Although less sun-saturated, New Jersey has started using rebates and solar renewable energy certificates, doubling its solar program in each of the past three years.