According to a new study from ABI Research, “Nanotechnologies for Green Power Generation,” world investment in renewable energy will top $2 trillion on a cumulative basis from 2010 through 2015. Growth will be driven by Asia, North America and Europe, as these regions lead in their efforts to increase production of energy from renewable sources.

Were the companies building these generating plants to use existing, commercially available nanotechnologies, ABI Research estimates that, over the same five-year period, green power producers in the solar and wind markets could save nearly $300 billion in capital expenditure. For example, “Incorporating nanomaterials into wind turbine blades can make them stronger, lighter and more durable, so they last longer while generating more electricity,” said Larry Fisher, research director, NextGen (ABI Research’s emerging technologies research incubator).

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) expects world energy consumption to grow 44% from 2008’s 283 quadrillion BTUs to 678 quadrillion BTUs (7.15 exajoules) by 2030. This increase will be driven by growing energy demand from developing nations such as China and India. Concurrently, the monetary and environmental costs of fossil fuel-based power are making it necessary for governments around the world to shift electricity production to alternative forms of energy.

“The addition of nanomaterials to the manufacturing processes makes solar cells, wind turbines and fuel cells cheaper to produce while improving their efficiency in generating electricity,” Fisher said. “These factors together make even more convincing the argument that we need to move our electrical production away from fossil fuels and increasingly toward renewable sources.”

ABI Research anticipates that between 2010 and 2015, new solar photovoltaic installations and new wind installations implemented over the forecast period will total 652 GW (gigawatts) of new energy production. Fuel cell shipments will total more than 35 million units over that period as well, indicating that the sector is on the cusp of global commercialization.

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