Investment in greater storage and expansions of transmission capabilities are key factors according to the researchers
According to a new study, wind and solar power generation could reliably meet 80% of the US’s electricity demand, while 100% could be met by scaling up energy storage capabilities and capacity. This is the finding of four researchers from the Carnegie Institution for Science, University of California, Irvine (UCI), and the California Institute of Technology. The scientists analyzed 36 years of hourly U.S. weather data (1980 to 2015) in order to understand the fundamental geophysical barriers to supplying electricity exclusively from solar and wind energy and their work was published last month in the journal Energy & Environmental.
UCI associate professor Steven Davis said: “We looked at the variability of solar and wind energy over both time and space and compared that to U.S. electricity demand. What we found is that we could reliably get around 80% 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.” Although such expansion of transmission or storage capabilities would mean expensive investments, they would still be feasible. The researchers estimated that the cost of the new transmission lines required, for example, could be hundreds of billions of dollars, while in comparison, storing that much electricity with today’s cheapest batteries would likely cost more than a trillion dollars, even though prices are constantly falling. However, meeting 100% 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. Even so, “The fact that we could get 80% of our power from wind and solar alone is really encouraging. Five years ago, many people doubted that these resources could account for more than 20 or 30%”, Davis concludes..
Source: UCI News