Episode 126: How much of our electric power could be generated by renewables like wind and solar?

Jay Apt, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business and in the CMU Department of Engineering & Public Policy, tells us how much we could increase our energy generation from renewables like wind and solar. He also explains the challenge to relying too much on renewables.

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Variable Renewable Energy and the Electricity Grid by Jay Apt and Paulina Jaramillo

Renewable Electricity Futures Study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Managing Variable Energy Resources to Increase Renewable Electricity’s Contribution to the Grid Policy Guide from the Scott Institute for Energy Innovation


Transcript

HOST: Have you ever wondered how much of our electric power could be generated by renewables like wind and solar? On this week’s Energy Bite, Jay Apt, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

APT: In the U.S., just over 5 percent of our electric power is generated by wind and solar power today. Another 6 percent is generated by hydroelectric power. We can get to at least 20-30% of our electric power from variable renewables like wind and solar before we run into interesting and expensive issues.

Germany has 17% wind and solar today so we know it is achievable. It is pretty clear the United States could go from 5 percent to 15 percent wind and solar power within a decade.

HOST: What is the primary barrier to reaching that goal?

APT: The primary barrier is that when you try to match demand with generation, you have to do at the very instant . So you need to have other forms of power generation available at a moment’s notice to pinch-hit for when the sun does not shine or the wind does not blow. That cost must be factored into the cost of variable energy sources like wind and solar power.

HOST: How much of our electric power do you believe should come from solar and wind power? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

ANNOUNCER: Energy Bite is a co-production between 90.5 WESA and Carnegie Mellon’s’ Scott Institute for Energy Innovation.

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