The biggest myth about clean power sources is that it can't provide electricity to the grid reliably enough. It's too "intermittent" say the skeptics. That "wind doesn't always blow, sun doesn't always shine" stuff. Which, on its face, is true enough. But throw in smarter grids, battery or hydrogen storage capacity, and suddenly clean energy can meet demand 99.9% of the time.
That's the finding of a new report from University of Delaware researchers, which found that we can pull all of the coal, gas, and nukes out of one of the nation's largest electrical grids, replace it with wind, solar, and storage, and still keep it humming along just as dependably.
"These results break the conventional wisdom that renewable energy is too unreliable and expensive," co-author Willett Kempton said in a statement. "“The key is to get the right combination of electricity sources and storage — which we did by an exhaustive search — and to calculate costs correctly.”
And calculate they did. According to the University of Delaware,
the authors developed a computer model to consider 28 billion combinations of renewable energy sources and storage mechanisms, each tested over four years of historical hourly weather data and electricity demands. The model incorporated data from within a large regional grid called PJM Interconnection, which includes 13 states from New Jersey to Illinois and represents one-fifth of the United States' total electric grid.
Yes, the scientists have shown rather definitively that 1/5th of the nation can run on solar and wind. We just need some more super-expensive stuff like batteries and hydrogen storage and offshore wind:
“For example, using hydrogen for storage, we can run an electric system that today would meeting a need of 72 GW, 99.9 percent of the time, using 17 GW of solar, 68 GW of offshore wind, and 115 GW of inland wind,” the other co-author Cory Budischak said in the same statement.
It's further evidence for what we've long known: with the will, the investment, and the foresight, we could get off fossil fuels no problem. It is eminently possible; wind and solar are pretty clearly the future of energy production.
Lead image, Sante Fe New Mexican