Wind and solar power could meet four-fifths of US electricity demand, study finds

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Wind and solar power could meet four-fifths of US electricity demand, study finds

Postby Gawdzilla Sama » Fri Mar 02, 2018 1:12 pm

Wind and solar power could meet four-fifths of US electricity demand, study finds
Investment in greater storage, transmission capabilities needed

Date: February 27, 2018

Source: University of California - Irvine

Summary: The United States could reliably meet about 80 percent of its electricity demand with solar and wind power generation, according to scientists.

The United States could reliably meet about 80 percent of its electricity demand with solar and wind power generation, according to scientists at the University of California, Irvine; the California Institute of Technology; and the Carnegie Institution for Science.

However, meeting 100 percent of electricity demand with only solar and wind energy would require storing several weeks' worth of electricity to compensate for the natural variability of these two resources, the researchers said.

"The sun sets, and the wind doesn't always blow," noted Steven Davis, UCI associate professor of Earth system science and co-author of a renewable energy study published today in the journal Energy & Environmental Science. "If we want a reliable power system based on these resources, how do we deal with their daily and seasonal changes?"

The team analyzed 36 years of hourly U.S. weather data (1980 to 2015) to understand the fundamental geophysical barriers to supplying electricity with only solar and wind energy.

"We looked at the variability of solar and wind energy over both time and space and compared that to U.S. electricity demand," Davis said. "What we found is that we could reliably get around 80 percent of our electricity from these sources by building either a continental-scale transmission network or facilities that could store 12 hours' worth of the nation's electricity demand."

The researchers said that such expansion of transmission or storage capabilities would mean very substantial -- but not inconceivable -- investments. They estimated that the cost of the new transmission lines required, for example, could be hundreds of billions of dollars. In comparison, storing that much electricity with today's cheapest batteries would likely cost more than a trillion dollars, although prices are falling.

Other forms of energy stockpiling, such as pumping water uphill to later flow back down through hydropower generators, are attractive but limited in scope. The U.S. has a lot of water in the East but not much elevation, with the opposite arrangement in the West.


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