That’s what researchers from Stanford University and the University of California Berkeley are suggesting—as have others in the past. In new research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the researchers said that in an all-electric U.S. wind, water and solar power can provide all of the U.S.’s energy needs inexpensively when excess energy is stored in the ground and water.
"The utilities and others who are against renewables have always argued that the lights are going to go out, the grid is going to be unstable, and it will cost too much to keep a clean, renewable-energy grid stable and reliable," Mark Jacobson, Stanford Professor and coauthor of the research. "Skeptics have never studied a system of 100 percent clean, renewable energy for all purposes, and particularly one that combines low-cost storage with demand response and some hydrogen, as in this new paradigm.”
This model relies on on an all-electric U.S., one in which transportation and industry are powered by electricity. It is a possibility but isn’t likely to happen overnight. The research said it could be possible by 2050, however.
Jacobson and his coauthor Mark Delucchi of the University of California Berkeley said that wind, hydropower and solar can provide all of the U.S.’s energy needs when coupled with low-cost energy storage, which includes storing energy in heat and cold as well as pumped water storage and not in batteries, which are still high-cost.
The study recommended storing heat gathered from rooftop solar collectors in soil or rocks then using that to heat homes in the winter. Similarly, when solar or wind are producing more electricity than needed for the grid, it could be used to produce ice which can be used for cooling when electric prices are higher. The excess electricity could also be used to essentially make more electricity: “By supplementing the energy-producing mechanisms that drive concentrated solar power plants and pumped hydroelectric facilities,” Stanford said. In such a scenario when solar or wind farms are producing more electricity than needed the excess energy could be used to pump water for hydroelectric facilities.
Because energy is stored in temperature differences, it also reduces the amount of electric production needed in the model, claiming people would spend about 30 percent less on electric in the model because energy would be stored in heat and cold for later use.
The system would also be much healthier. ”You eliminate air pollution and global warming emissions, stabilize fuel costs, create over 2 million more jobs than are lost in the U.S., you reduce reliance on international trade of fuels, and you reduce the risk of power disruption, such as from terrorism or massive failure, because more energy is distributed over larger areas," Jacobson said. "Most energy would be local. You can eliminate a lot of fuel emissions, just because you won't have to transport oil in tankers across the ocean, you won't have to use trains of coal cars to ship the coal."Tweet