Stanford scientists recently revealed a study supporting the idea that the United States could generate all of its power using clean energy technology.
Not only is it possible to run the country off electricity, battery storage will not even be necessary to compensate for the intermittency fo energy sources like wind and solar. The scientists used several models to make their predictions, and they also suggest some easier and more efficient ways to store energy.
The research project started with an estimate of how much clean energy could be generated within the connected US states (Alaska and Hawaii were excluded) between the years 2050 and 2055. It assumed that all technology, by this point, runs using electricity: manufacturing, transportation, and heating/cooling, etc.
Their models also included clever storage techniques. for instance, solar heat could be stored underground or in water, or extra electricity could be turned into ice. That energy can then later be used to heat or cool homes. Stanford University already uses such a system on their campus. An entire town in Canada uses a similar system for fifty-two houses. The sun heats rocks and soil underground, and that heat then warms the community during the winter months.
As lead study author Mark Jacobson explains, “This type of storage takes virtually no real footprint on the ground as a natural gas well or a power plant does. One cannot even tell there is a storage facility because it is under a park.”
According to the research, electricity will cost roughly the same when generated by clean energy technology. Luckily, electric engines are 30% more efficient than combustion engines, so there will still be savings in the end.
Jacobson also points out that the research doesn’t tell us how to integrate all this new technology into the grid, but it does tell us what our end goal needs to be.
Image (c) Stanford University