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U.S. Industry:

The popularity of renewable energy technologies has increased significantly in recent years.  Heightened awareness of the deleterious environmental effects and dangers of traditional energy sources (petroleum, nuclear power and coal) coupled with increasing costs of procuring these traditional sources has spurred investigations into “green” alternatives.  In 2007, 7% of the US energy supply was from renewable sources including wind, biomass, geothermal, hydroelectric and solar power (1). Popular options such as wind, hydroelectric and solar power are susceptible to natural forces and thus, not inherently suitable for generating base load power. 

Biomass accounts for 53% of the renewable energy consumed in the US (1).  Some biomass options (such as ethanol) trigger concerns about the economic effects of using a food crop (corn) to generate fuel.  Recent global economic turbulence has proven that market forces can greatly affect the viability of corn as an energy crop.  Biogas produced via anaerobic digestion is another biomass option.

Graph Created by the Energy Information Administration

While anaerobic digestion is widely accepted as a proven, reliable technology in Germany and across much of Europe, the industry is relatively new to North America. The EPA - AgSTAR Program estimates that in 2009 as few as 125 anaerobic digesters were operating at commercial livestock facilities generating 244,000 megawatt-hours of usable electricity annually (2) as compared to the approximately 3,800 digesters operating in Germany. quasar’s system is based on anaerobicly digesting organic biomass to solve a waste management problem and generate clean renewable energy.

The United States ranks second globally in renewable energy production, trailing behind China (1).  Significant capital investments required to develop renewable technologies have proven to be a challenge for many start-up companies.  Without the assistance of a renewable energy law, like the one enacted in Germany, progress has been slow.  Renewable energy portfolio standards are helping to develop the industry.  These standards established renewable energy benchmarks for utility companies that encourage incorporating “green” energy into established utility networks .  Currently only half of the states have a renewable energy portfolio standard (1).  

 

Sources: 1) Energy Information Administration, 2) Environmental Protection Agency - AgSTAR
 

 

 

 

   
     
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