BusinessInsider has detailed charts showing how renewable energy is generally expensive while the cost of natural gas and coal is low. Even worse, government subsidies for renewable energy are much less effective than subsidies for nuclear, oil, and gas in terms of electricity produced. Investors looking for a big return swarmed into renewable energy a few years ago are now leaving.
Sure, the cost of renewable energy will drop as it gets more mainstream. But it has a long ways to go. Meanwhile, the cost of natural gas drops (even as this does mean fracking which will inevitably produce hidden costs due to poisoned water tables and the resultant lawsuits.) The current failure of Congress to renew wind energy tax credits is absolutely killing wind energy development in the US, and that’s making things worse.
However, some forms of renewable energy are already cost effective, as the chart shows. Onshore wind, hydro, and geothermal compare favorably in cost. The US has huge geothermal potential and some geothermal plants have been creating power for decades. Big hydro is renewable energy however it requires that huge dams be built. Not only can the dams create massive damage to the environment and quite possibly cause earthquakes, all the good sites are already taken.
My view is that wind power will prove to be the long-term big winner in terms of installed power while current darling of solar power will always be a player but not to the extent that some predict now.
Scotland is well on the way to reaching its goal of 100% renewable energy by 2020. If they can do it, so can the US. New technology always takes a while to drop in cost. The big problem in the US is not so much costs but the lack of desire to have a renewable energy future, made worse by the inevitable and continual arguing that we apparently have to do about everything.