In the race to develop renewable energy production, a patchwork of competing philosophies is emerging. Energy producers, some who are attempting to balance their existing production capabilities with these emerging technologies and others who are trying to develop these technologies in a stand alone form, have differing views on the future potential of renewable and this is often reflected in their development philosophies.
Both wind and solar, the two most notable renewable energy sources, have limitations with regards to their ability to replace existing non-renewable technologies. As with all energy technologies, maximum energy potential, in an ideal situation, and actual energy availability varies widely. There is energy loss through conversion from DC current to AC current, energy loss through the transmission process to the market and end user and environmental factors that affect production potential. With solar, little things like humidity, cloud cover, dust particulates on collectors, seasonal change in the sun's position and climate variation all affects the amount of available solar energy that can be produced. Wind power also has seasonal variation as well as day to day variation and other climatic variables which affect its production. Add to these issues, limitations on storage for nighttime and seasonal variations in usage, the need to connect these facilities on a large scale into our energy grid, environmental concerns and the infrastructure costs in building large scale production facilities, and you have many daunting issues that must be addressed technologically in order to make these energy sources an integral part of our energy system.
Industry response to these challenges is varied, with some seeking to gradually integrate these technologies into their already existing systems and others blazing a trail to stand alone production capabilities. The costs for stand alone production are vastly greater, as is the risk, than is the gradual integration approach. Some businesses, like Xcel Energy, are choosing the financially more cautious development path, while others, like T. Boone Pickens, are pursuing the stand alone path and the greater number of obstacles that it presents.
As this story unfolds, it will probably be some combination, due to individual situations, of the two approaches that will end up being the immediate future.