A recent article by Jesse Jenkins and Alex Trembath published on The Energy Collective website takes a look at the growth of wind and solar power industries over the past few decades and aims to answer the question, “How far have we come exactly?”

The article states that the wind and solar power industries “are growing rapidly and are beginning to move the needle in global energy supplies.” In the past, renewable energy growth has been fueled by deployment subsidies and other support policies such as feed-in tariffs, tax credits and portfolio standards. But with the spark of public interest and investment in renewable energy adoption, the wind and solar industries have taken great leaps.

These great leaps have become apparent; from 2008 to 2013, wind turbines almost tripled the amount of electricity generated globally, while solar energy generation grew by more than ten times. Together, wind and solar jumped from providing 1.1 percent of the world’s electricity in 2008 to 3.3 percent in 2013. Tremendous growth, but in order to keep up with (or replace) coal and other fossil fuels, wind and solar will have to continue on this rapid growth pattern.

The questions many are asking now are: How much of a role will the renewable energy sector take, and how will it impact the energy system?

Many countries (U.S. included) are incorporating renewable energy by using an integrated grid system. This system allows countries or states to share energy depending on the energy needs of the region. An example of an integrated grid is seen in the Great Plains, Midwest, and in Arkansas and Louisiana; this regional energy market is called the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO). So how does the integrated grid system work? One example: in 2014, Iowa generated 28.5 percent of its energy through wind power. This power was used throughout the MISO region and ended up supplying almost 6 percent of MISO’s power demands in 2014.

This growth is making a difference in our own backyards. Tennessee’s solar and wind industries are gathering steam, creating new sources of renewable energy and hundreds of jobs all over the state. Read TAEBC’s Roadmap for Tennessee’s Advanced Energy Economy to learn more about the roles that these two industries have in driving the state’s economy.

Source: A Look at Wind and Solar Energy, Part 1: How Far We’ve Come” by Alex Trembath and Jesse Jenkins