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.

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

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.

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 and wind power is “a continental-scale transmission network or facilities that could store 12 hours’ worth of the nation’s electricity demand.”

Fortunately, costs for battery storage have plummeted in recent years so fast that in Colorado, building new renewable power plus battery storage is now cheaper than running old coal plants.

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