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Published on February 20th, 2012 | by Zachary Shahan


Clean Energy Could Supply U.S. with 70% of Electricity by 2030, NOAA Director Says

February 20th, 2012 by  

solar wind

A director of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was in Vancouver on Friday for the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual convention and mentioned in a talk there that clean, renewable energy (not even including hydroelectric) could cheaply supply 48 states of the continental U.S. with 70% of its electricity demand by 2030. The other 30% would be half from fossil fuels and half from nuclear and hydro.

Wow. I mean, we know it’s possible. A piece by Mark Z. Jacobson (professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University and director of the Atmosphere/Energy Program there) and Mark A. Delucchi (a research scientist at the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis) has shown how the world could actually be 100% powered by clean, renewable energy by 2030. But getting more top researchers to show its possibilities in the near future, at a cheap price, is big.

The lead researcher and speaker was Sandy MacDonald, who is director of the earth system research lab at NOAA.

NOAA’s Research

“NOAA embarked on the renewables project three years ago, collating 16 billion pieces of weather data derived from satellite observations and airplane observations and weather station reports,” Scott Simpson of the Vancouver Sun writes.

“Then it designed a program to filter the information to remove unlikely venues for wind or solar power arrays – such as national parks and urban areas – and came up with a map showing robust wind resources in the middle of the continent and decent ones in the northeast Atlantic states, as well as strong solar production areas in the desert southwest.”

But here’s where the NOAA researchers stepped beyond the good to the great, research-wise: they balanced potential power production and electricity demand to determine, how, where, when, and to what extent clean energy could produce the electricity we need. The end result — 70% of electricity demand — is huge (although, not much of a surprise to CleanTechnica readers, I imagine).

Big thanks to Scott Simpson for quickly getting a piece up on this, but I look forward to reading more when NOAA puts out more information on the research.

Source: Vancouver Sun
Image: Solar photovoltaic panels & wind turbine via shutterstock

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • Will Poundstone

    if we also factor in increased energy efficiency, we could get ALL of our electricity from renewable sources

  • Thanks. Well, we certainly cover those latter topics.

    But this is still an exciting-looking report, if it includes what I expect — more details on the ‘how’ for the whole U.S.

  • tsvieps

    Another dreamland article. The issue with wind and solar is not primarily where the wind blow and sun shines. The issue is that these sources are intermittent and wind power fluctuates even when the wind is blowing. Cost to even out over time is more than the cost of generation.

    As mentioned in other article here on Geo-thermal…it is at least steady and 24/7.

    • These are really old issues, not as scary as you make them sound. I’ve seen two top utility company CEOs shoot that argument down. With a mixture of sources (not 100% wind, not 100% solar, of course, but a mixture of wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, and perhaps a few other things) as well as improvements in the grid that are happening already, this is anything but a dream. in fact, it’s much more realistic than the concerns you pose here.

  • Bob_Wallace

    Please do go on.

    Interested in doing a summary article? The general blogosphere hasn’t become aware of the various studies that are available. Jacobson and Deluchhi gets some attention, but standing alone some dismiss it.

    A well written short article could be very useful for getting the message out.


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  • Bob_Wallace

    This is major, major. Coming out of NOAA and presented at AAAs makes it hard to dismiss as some crackpot professor.

    I see nothing about having to build storage to get us to 70%. I would assume there’s a lot of load shifting involved but this isn’t mentioned.

    I also assume the 15% and ~8% from hydro would be dispatchable inputs.

    If we could get Congress back under Democratic control we could probably get this transition going strongly in a couple of years. Just need to pass some legislation to finish the job of getting wind and solar prices down and get transmission builds underway.

    • Yeah, I know. Really look forward to seeing something official on this! 😀
      “I see nothing about having to build storage to get us to 70%. I would assume there’s a lot of load shifting involved but this isn’t mentioned.”
      Yeah, I think so. In the Vancouver Sun piece, he talks a bit about the need for a good, complete national grid — I figured that need was a given so didn’t get into it.

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