DecarbonisationEnergy

By 2050, the United States might run entirely on renewable energy

Although the Biden administration has vowed to develop a carbon-free energy industry by 2035, climate experts warn that because renewable resources only supply only 19% of United States electricity as of 2020, our shift to a green grid future must be accelerated.

A group of Stanford researchers headed by Mark Jacobson, who is a professor in both civil and environmental engineering, is set to demonstrate that a 100% renewable energy grid by the year 2050 is not only conceivable but also possible without blackouts and at a cheaper cost than the current infrastructure.

“One of the primary worries with renewables is that they’re intermittent, that the wind doesn’t always blow or the sun doesn’t always shine,” Jacobson says, noting that this unreliability has been blamed for blackouts in both California, which heavily relies on renewables, and Texas, which does not. “So, we wanted to put this theory to the test.”

Jacobson serves as the lead author of the new paper published in Renewable Energy that contends that a full shift to renewable energy–specified as water, wind, and solar energy– was going to benefit the United States as a whole and individuals by lowering costs, creating jobs, and lowering air pollution and carbon emissions. They calculated how hydroelectric and geothermal power plants, wind turbines, tidal turbines, rooftop and utility photovoltaic panels, as well as other renewable energy sources may create energy in 2050.

These estimates were fueled by a variety of sources, including Jacobson drew on data from the weather-climate-air pollution model he created in 1990 and has since used in several simulations. The Energy Information Administration provided data on the individual state as well as sector energy consumption. Existing fossil fuel energy sources have been changed to wind, water, and solar-powered electric gadgets. This data was then utilized to make forecasts for energy consumption in the year 2050.

In 2050 and 2051, a grid integration model was used to match time-dependent energy supply with demand and storage for every 30 second period. The authors of the study examined US areas and national demand until the model generated a solution with zero load loss–that is, no blackouts with 100% renewable energy plus storage.

No other study, according to Jacobson, is doing this type of modeling, which is unique in part since it examines the circumstances for any simulation after every 30 seconds. “There is none that consistently predicts the wind fields or solar radiation fields using a connected weather prediction model,” he explains. “Or the building’s overall heating and cooling requirement.” There isn’t a single one that covers all procedures or storage kinds.”

Hourly interval models are more prevalent, according to Wesley Cole, who is a senior energy analyst at National Renewable Energy Laboratory, but this new study offers researchers like him more confidence that they are not losing anything by modeling at a higher temporal resolution. “It obviously helps,” Cole says, “but it’s uncertain if it’s required for every study.”

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