Renewable Energy Revolution is Within Sight in US

An amazing 39% of US electricity can come from rooftop solar, according to National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL).

To get there, solar would be installed on every suitable roof in America, giving us over 11,000 gigawatts of capacity.

While solar probably won’t end up on every potential rooftop, there are other ways to get there: by covering parking lots with solar canopies and integrating solar into building facades, for example.

The purpose of NREL’s report is to document small solar’s potential. In 2008, they estimated rooftop solar could generate about 21% of US electricity. Clearly, small solar has come a very long way in a short time … and we’re really just starting.

Rapid, Affordable Energy Transformation Possible

In another analysis, NOAA finds the key to scaling renewable energy in the US isn’t energy storage, but being able to take advantage of where the sun shines or the wind blows at any given moment.

We can do that if the US moves from a regional grid to a national system enabled by high-voltage direct-current transmission (HVDC).

With this improvement in transmission infrastructure, "weather-driven renewable resources could supply most of the nation’s electricity at costs similar to today’s," because either the sun is shining or the wind is blowing somewhere all the time.

The Department of Energy just approved a HDVC line, the Plains and Eastern Clean Line, that will bring wind energy from western Oklahoma to western Tennessee.

Read our article, Renewable Energy Transmission Backbone Takes Shape Across US, Europe

Solar NOAA

Snapshot of solar energy potential across the US (Credit: Image by Chris Clack/CIRES)

Wind NOAA

Snapshot of wind energy potential across the US

in 2012. (Credit: Image by Chris Clack/CIRES)

"Our research shows a transition to a reliable, low-carbon, electrical generation and transmission system can be accomplished with commercially available technology and within 15 years," says Alexander MacDonald, co-lead author and recently retired director of NOAA’s Earth System Research Lab.

In fact, the US can cut emissions from electricity production up to 80% from 1990 levels by 2030 – even with increased demand. That’s huge, Really Huge!!

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