A high-resolution map based on NOAA weather data showing wind energy potential
across the United States in 2012. Image by Chris Clack/CIRES
(January 25, 2016) The United States could slash greenhouse gas emissions from power production by up to 78 percent below 1990 levels within 15 years while meeting increased demand, according to a new study by NOAA and University of Colorado Boulder researchers.
The study used a sophisticated mathematical model to evaluate future cost, demand, generation and transmission scenarios. It found that with improvements in transmission infrastructure, weather-driven renewable resources could supply most of the nation’s electricity at costs similar to today’s.
“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,” said Alexander MacDonald, co-lead author and recently retired director of NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) in Boulder.
The paper is published online today in the journal Nature Climate Change.
Although improvements in wind and solar generation have continued to ratchet down the cost of producing renewable energy, these energy resources are inherently intermittent. As a result, utilities have invested in surplus generation capacity to back up renewable energy generation with natural gas-fired generators and other reserves.