Our growing dependence on electricity for work, home, and play is undeniable. Computers, assembly-line robots, tools, automated logistics and inventory systems, video games, electric cars, and flash water heaters, require more reliable, affordable power 24/7.
Utilities, communities, and regulators are finding solar and wind power are key to meeting increased power demand while reducing the economic and environmental costs of generation. Read about these 7 renewable energy facts to stay informed.
Seven Renewable Energy Facts that Support Increased Adoption
#1: It’s become cheaper to generate power using the sun and wind.
In more and more scenarios the full lifecycle costs of building and operating renewable energy projects have dropped below operating costs alone of conventional generation technologies like coal or nuclear. It’s even more remarkable development when you consider that in the U.S. conventional energy technologies (oil, coal, and nuclear) are relatively cheaper to operate than other developed economies. (Lazard, Nov 2017 Report)
#2: Every day we hear of citizens and leaders committing to 100% renewable power
Citizens and leaders are influencing their local governments of all sizes, to supplement power generation from more conventional means such as oil, gas, and nuclear.
Their goals are to reduce environmental costs while ensuring reliable and affordable power for the long-term. And their forward thinking is catching on! (We’ll take a closer look at several of these initiatives in future posts.)
#3: The growing costs of climate change
Emissions from fossil-fuel power plants are increasing the earth’s overall temperature and creating expensive problems.
In November of 2018, the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported that in the last 10 years taxpayers have footed the bill for more than $350 billion to clean up and provide assistance from flooding and storms. (MarketWatch, Nov 2018)
Those events are expected to be more frequent and harsh in the coming years. Increased use of renewables can reduce the number and impact of these events to decrease recovery costs. The positive effect of renewables is even greater when we consider the loss of human lives and quality of life for those living in or having to leave their homes in hard hit areas (think Hurricane Katrina and wildfire-destroyed Paradise, California).
#4: We’re making headway in storage technologies
The sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow, so we need to store electricity for cloudy, windless days! And we can’t forget that more frequent drought conditions are affecting communities powered by hydro generation.
Companies are testing improvements in traditional battery technology and new alternative battery technology to meet power generation integration goals at the utility, neighborhood, and individual customer level.
“These energy storage devices are versatile, capable of storing energy from any source–fossil fuel or renewable– and in any place–private homes or industrial operations.” (Forbes, June 2018)
#5: We’re cracking the code with smart grid technology
Smart grid technology adds power from intermittent renewables generation to conventionally generated power for reliable, affordable power on the grid no matter what time of day or day of the week.
Recent research targets management of renewables integration at a microgrid level (as few as 3-5 houses). Researchers can better test changing customer demand for power and changes in weather. Results of this microgrid work will translate to entire commercial smart grid systems. (Siebel Energy Institute, 2016)
#6: Officials are advancing legal and regulatory changes
Legal and regulatory advancements are supporting utilities and consumers who generate more electricity with solar and wind technology.
Legislative and regulatory actions are intended to:
- reinforce the power infrastructure for greater reliability,
- keep prices affordable,
- improve power quality,
- reduce environmental impact, and
- provide generation to meet increased demand from economic growth.
It’s often a “carrot and stick” proposition. The government provides funding opportunities for research and for the addition of renewable power (carrot) to meet mandates for more use of renewables (stick). (NCSL, April 2016)
#7: We won’t run out of solar or wind power.
It is estimated that the sun emits “384.6 yotta watts (3.846×1026 watts) of energy in the form of light and other forms of radiation” which is spread around our entire planet and filtered by our atmosphere. It makes sense to harness that free energy for electricity generation.
“If all the sunlight energy striking the Earth’s surface in Texas alone could be converted to electricity, it would be up to 300 times the total power output of all the power plants in the world!” (The Institute of Agriculture: University of Tennessee)
It is also the powerful sun that creates conditions for winds on Earth. The sun heats up the Earth land and water unevenly, creating sea and land breezes. (National Geographic) Regions most affected by these temperature changes are places with the most consistent winds and therefore, most often the best places to site wind farms.
It’s important to note that water generated power (hydro) is a reliability risk when drought conditions exist, so reliance on other inexhaustible renewables like wind and solar is key.
Meeting the 100% Challenge by Addressing Renewable Energy Realities
Our challenge is to assemble the right amount of each ingredient for the most effective mix of power generation as we transition to 100% renewables.
Ford Motor Company is doing just that. The car manufacturing giant recently announced it is purchasing 500K megawatt hours of Michigan wind energy to power several of its plants, along with the large solar system it installed. Global Director of Energy and Technology George Andraos said this about the bold step:
“Ford supports the implementation of renewable energy where the project can be tied to the customer’s facility, either directly or through the local distribution utility, and we believe that supports local jobs, improves the local environment, and adds resiliency to the local grid.” (Forbes, Feb 2019)
The Path to 100% renewables is underway because of economics, customer/community expectations, climate, new technologies, and legal/regulatory updates. It’s an exciting time!