Stunner: Solar and wind power alone could provide four fifths of U.S. power

A new study finds that wind power and solar photovoltaics could by themselves meet 80 percent of all U.S. electricity demand.

 CREDIT: MARTIN BARRAUD VIA GETTY IMAGES

CREDIT: MARTIN BARRAUD VIA GETTY IMAGES

“Five years ago, many people doubted that these resources could account for more than 20 or 30 percent,” co-author Steven Davis of the University of California at Irvine (UCI) explained in a news release. So, “the fact that we could get 80 percent of our power from wind and solar alone is really encouraging.”

It’s especially encouraging for two additional reasons. First, the price of solar and wind have been dropping rapidly.

This chart from Reuters last week shows that power from wind and solar are already the cheapest sources of power.

solarwindcosts1.jpg

Second, the study only examined how wind and solar could power the grid. In doing so, it found these two sources alone could provide 80 percent of the power. This still leaves 20 percent that could be provided by a variety of alternative types of carbon-free power.

And in terms of alternate carbon-free power sources, hydropower already provides 6.5 percent of U.S. power while geothermal and biomass together add another 2 percent. All of those can be expanded.

In addition, while most current nuclear plants are bleeding cash (and so new nuclear power doesn’t make much economic sense), even a modest carbon price would at least keep most existing plants competitive enough to support any transition to high renewable penetration. Nuclear currently provides nearly 20 percent — one fifth — of U.S. power.

For this latest study, scientists at the Carnegie Institution for Science, UCI, and CalTech looked at 36 years of hourly U.S. weather data “to understand the fundamental geophysical barriers to supplying electricity with only solar and wind energy.”

The key to achieving 80 percent penetration of just solar... Read the rest of the story on ThinkProgress.org HERE