Can Wind and Solar Power Meet Our Energy Needs?

, , Senior energy analyst | March 5, 2014, 10:51 am EST
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News out that utility Austin Energy will meet its goal of 35 percent electricity coming from renewable energy four years ahead of schedule should help settle the question. Austin’s newest commitments bring its wind portfolio to 1.3 gigawatts. (A gigawatt is the size of a nuclear plant.)

Credit: Mike Jacobs

Credit: Mike Jacobs

To use wind and solar energy to cut CO2 emissions from existing power plants, we need a strong grid and a good attitude.

The Texas experience with wind power is a model to follow. Texas showered the nation with oil in 1901, and then in 2005 raised its renewable energy goals and planned for transmission to continue its energy economy. Now, wind power prices in Texas are coming in the $26-to-$36/MWh price range (crazy cheap) and grid operators across the world are managing the transition to significant levels of renewable energy.

PJM, grid operator for 61 million people, released a report describing how operations with 30 percent wind and solar will require adding reserves of less than 2 percent and reduce CO2 as much as 40 percent. Solar is now adding 5 gigawatts per year.

Our energy needs must be met now with additions that are carbon-free. Wind and solar are available today, pay for themselves in both dollars saved and emissions, and actually do work just fine. We will have to change our energy supply if we want to live in our coastal cities, grow our food on our farms, and have a climate we can all tolerate.

Bring us more clean energy, and make investments in efficiency. These are our energy needs.

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