Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Renewable Energy Future

80% By 2050

Renewable energy technologies
 ~ A new study by the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) shows that the future of electrical energy could be composed primarily from renewable technologies. Is it really possible?

It's not the first such study. Several others have come to similar conclusions. The NREL study adds further rigor and detail to the argument and makes a straightforward statement:
Renewable electricity generation from technologies that are commercially available today, in combination with a more flexible electric system, is more than adequate to supply 80% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2050 while meeting electricity demand on an hourly basis in every region of the country.

Our electrical grid will require some work, but it is not impossible if the will can be found to upgrade this critical piece of infrastructure. Even without a national grid, most states could power themselves completely from renewable energy.

Additional conclusions from the study:
  • All regions of the United States could contribute substantial renewable electricity supply in 2050, consistent with their local renewable resource base.
  • Higher than current renewable growth rates will be required to achieve this level, but not higher than what has been achieved elsewhere.
  • Electricity supply and demand can be balanced in every hour of the year in each region with nearly 80 percent electricity from renewable resources.
  • Additional challenges to power system planning and operation would arise, including management of low-demand periods and curtailment of excess electricity generation.
  • Additional transmission infrastructure will be required.
  • The direct incremental cost associated with high renewable generation is comparable to published cost estimates of other clean energy scenarios.
All that stands in the way is the will to make it happen. The technology works. The economics work. The only thing not working is the politics.

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