New study shows U.S. has potential to reduce energy sector global warming emissions by 80% within 15 years
A study from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has found that by building high-tech transmission lines, Americans could take advantage of renewable energy without raising consumer costs.
NEWS, or the national electricity and weather system study, began six years ago. Its goal was to calculate costs of producing energy from multiple sources including wind, solar, natural gas and even coal.
Alexander MacDonald, a co-author of the study, said that studying a national weather map helped inspire the idea.
“I heard people talking about how renewable energy doesn’t work because it's intermittent,” he told Public Radio International, “and I remember saying, ‘it’s intermittent if you just have it over a really small area, but weather is big.’”
If the U.S. were to treat the entire country as one renewable energy-harnessing unit, it could be a viable practice, he thought.
After launching the study, MacDonald and his team found that his hypothesis was correct: The larger the geographic area, the more effectively wind and solar can compete with other energy sources. Furthermore, they found that renewable energy can compete on price, even without a major breakthrough in battery storage technology.
Transmitting power across the country was recognized as the least expensive way to use wind and solar energy. “It showed that we could have costs of electricity about the same as today, but it would reduce carbon dioxide up to 80%,” said MacDonald.
While the potential is there, it may take a while before the U.S. really capitalizes on renewable energy. That’s because massive transmission lines would have to be constructed to carry the energy, and people don’t like these lines passing through their neighbourhoods or on their land. But, at least there’s a viable alternative option making its way into the light.