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Published on January 7th, 2016 | by Adam Johnston


Getting To 100% Renewable Energy In the US

January 7th, 2016 by  

Getting to 100% renewable energy in the US by 2050 is a goal that is gaining traction among the US public. Reports from many environmental organizations have been written on how to get to this target, including from Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Foundation. After last year’s COP21 conference, the momentum has gotten stronger in order to keep global temperature within the 1.5°C threshold to avoid dramatic climatic change on the Earth.

Now, another massive report suggests a framework on how the US can get to 100% renewable energy sources by 2050.

Nellis Solar Power Plant, photovoltaic power plant in Nevada by U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Nadine Y. Barclay via Wikicommons (Public Domain)

A paper titled 100% Clean and Renewable Wind, Water and Sunlight all-sector Roadmaps for the 50 United States suggests this is possible even within 35 years. This analysis shows that getting to 100% renewable energy within the US would consist of:

  • 30.9% onshore wind
  • 19.1% offshore wind
  • 30.7% utility-scale solar photovoltaics (PV)
  • 7.2% rooftop PV
  • 7.3% concentrated solar power (CSP) with storage
  • 1.25% geothermal
  • 0.37% tidal/wave
  • 3.01% hydroelectricity

US 100 percent renewable energy

Under a 100% renewable scenario based on these numbers, millions of jobs would be created. Consider that 3.9 million construction jobs and 2 million operational jobs at renewable energy plants would outpace 3.9 million jobs lost from the traditional energy sectors.

Wisconsin 100 percent renewable energy

To further enhance these numbers, The Solutions Project website shows what each jurisdiction needs to do to get to 100%. For example, Minnesota could get 60% of its total energy from onshore wind (and note that this is all energy, not just electricity, but relies on electrification of transport). California, on the other hand, can get 26.5% from solar PV plants and 25% from onshore wind.

California 100 percent renewable energy

The numbers are primarily based on existing, commercially available technology. There is some potential to increase energy from “newer renewables” if they develop to a mature, cost-competitive scale. While tidal and wave energy make up a small fraction of the suggested renewable energy mix, for example, both have a lot to gain if they make further breakthroughs and cost improvements. Military giant Lockheed Martin is investing in wave and tidal energy. It seeks to capitalize on these new markets, as both the US tidal and wave energy markets are projected to reach $10.1 billion by 2020.

On the other end, future challenges could face hydroelectricity. A recent article from CBC discussed how a new Nature report points to how power plant production (including hydro) could see declines by 66.7% globally by 2040 & 2069, due (of course) to a changing climate.

Nonetheless, this report and the tidy website give a roadmap and discussion for how the US can get to 100% renewables by 2050.

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About the Author

is expected to complete the Professional Development Certificate in Renewable Energy from the University of Toronto by December 2017. Adam recently completed his Social Media Certificate from Algonquin College Continuing & Online Learning. Adam also graduated from the University of Winnipeg with a three-year B.A. combined major in Economics and Rhetoric, Writing & Communications in 2011. Adam owns a part-time tax preparation business. He also recently started up Salay Consulting and Social Media services, a part-time business which provides cleantech writing, analysis, and social media services. His eventual goal is to be a cleantech policy analyst. You can follow him on Twitter @adamjohnstonwpg or check out his business www.salayconsultiing.com.

  • ecointeractive

    We are not on track to reach the goals in the study, I think 2050 is too late, so now what?

    • Bob_Wallace

      We are in the early stage of the transfer from fossil fuels to renewables. In early stages of technology shifts things start slowly and then speed up.

      Right now political resistance to renewables is decreasing, the political influence of oil and coal is dropping. Prices for wind, solar and storage are dropping. Manufacturing and installation companies are establishing themselves. Utilities are learning how to better use renewable energy on their grids. And other stuff….

  • Global Citizen

    Thinking about solar.

    Free car parking space is enough to power may be all of Canada, US of A and Mexico.

    Let the floor be covered with solar panels from Solar Roadways, carports with solar
    PV panels. Even vehicle’s roof should have solar PV panels to charge the mobile phones and to keep.air blowers at full speed in summer.

    What if efficiency of solar PV cells increases ?

    What if conversion factor of Wind mills also increases ?

    What if sea water mills become commercial reality ?

    What if our consumption of energy and power becomes effcient ?

  • Anthony C

    Agree on all except I’d take concentrated solar and spread it out to the other types of solar, leaving only maybe .5%.

  • Carlyn Harris

    You’ve under estimated the potential of tidal generation. Safe, non polluting, quiet, out of sight and best of all…constant.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Not constant. Output rises and falls with each tidal cycle, falling to zero at slack tide. And tidal is a geographically limited resource.

      That said, we should make the most of it.

  • 100% means 100% of electricity generation, not 100% of energy use. Is that right?

    • globi

      It should be 100% energy use.
      (Btw, 100% RE-electricity would only be sensible together with the electrification of the hot water, heating and transportation sector. 100% RE-grid and 90% FF-use to simply heat water would be absurd).

  • Roger Pham

    I believe that “Necessity is the Mother of Invention.” Unfortunately, the profit-motivated private energy sector does not see 100%-24/7-RE (RE= Renewable Energy) as necessary for their profits. The Governments and the People do see that 100% RE is necessary to avert GW (Global Warming) disaster. Unfortunately, however, the Gov and the People are not in the business of selling and installing energy products and services.

    100% RE, when properly configured for 24/7 reliable power delivery, will definitely cost more than dispatchable fossil-fuel (FF) plants. Market force alone will unlikely lead us to a 100% RE future in time to avoid GW disaster.

    As such, a government mandate to gradually phase in RE gradually will be necessary. For example, 0.5% increase yearly in RE content of ALL forms of energy for 5 years, then going up to 1% yearly increase for the next 5 years, then to 1.5% increase yearly for the third set of 5 years…and so on, until we will have arrived at 100% RE in about 50 years.

    This will guarantee eventual and timely arrival at 100% in time to avert diasaster. This phasing-in schedule is gradual enough that the energy companies and utility companies have time to divest from new FF investments into new RE investments, while still can recoup from previous FF investments.

    The key here is mandating ALL forms of Energy to have RE phased in equally, from grid electricity, home heating gas and oil, to transportation fuels…etc. This has an important effect of allowing the most cost-efficient energy form to win over other forms, without the government having to pick and choose winner. Perhaps battery electricity, being the most efficient, will increase market share over other less-efficient energy forms…time will tell.

    “Necessity is the Mother of Invention.” With gradual ramping up of RE’s to replace FF’s, ingenuity and economy of scale will eventually, over the next several decades, make 100%-24/7 RE’s to be very affordable indeed.

  • Jon Wolla

    Everyone seems to forget that the near future will offer a cheap and yet untapped source of energy storage. Just a few years from now there will be an increasing amount of retired EV batteries available for stationary use. Car batteries with less than, say 70% capacity, will meet a large demand for replacement. They will, however be an asset in stationary use where size doesn’t matter. And there is no need for advanced recycling schemes, just removal and restacking of cells.
    And with the steady decrease in prices for new cells, the price of the old ones will drop as well. The sharp increase in EV sales now ongoing will result in a very large aftermarket for such retired cells ten years down the line, without any investment or research effort whatsoever.

  • Tom

    This article is pure ideology with almost no realistic technology.
    Also to claim Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Foundation as having any credibility re power generation etc is absolutely laughable -get some years of real experience in various power plants and grids and then you may realize reality.

  • Brett

    “It’s always sunny or windy somewhere?” And a paper by a Stanford professor- these are the 2 exhibits to hold on to a 100% RE dream free of baseload power.

    So who plans to run transmission lines across continents and oceans to ensure 100% access to wind and sun?

    Who wants to accept the financial limitations as well as political limitations of 100% RE? It’s not happening, ever. You must include nuclear, CCGT for the foreseeable future- and by future we’re thinking about another century until perhaps cold fusion or other current science projects are improved. At least some regions benefit from significant hydro to complement wind and solar. I think some of you think transmission lines are magical wires that move electrons 10,000 miles for free and without line losses.

    What disillusioned hipster on this website deletes people’s messages if they’re not in line with the agenda? My previous message was deleted as you didn’t like it. Great credibility folks. Free and open speech, except here on the website.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Read the site commenting rules. We’re not tolerant of people who post stuff that isn’t true.

      We’ve got a good example of FUD right before us with your most recent post. You do not have the right to post junk on this site.

      • Brett

        Bob you are sad. I guess “stuff isn’t true” in your book is that baseload power is needed to complement renewables like intermittent wind and solar, and that transmission lines can’t magically fix everything. Whatever business you do- remind me to never touch it.

        Mark Jacobson- he’s a nice guy. He sits at a desk at a University. And other smart people disagree with him at Stanford. He’s not the capital markets, you know, the body of money that ultimately decides what is actually feasible.

        You’re like FoxNews. If you don’t listen to the other side it must be true. If your point was so valid it could withstand an actual conversation.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Brett. Let’s make it really, really simple.

          We could build a 100% reliable 24/365 grid with only wind or solar and pump-up hydro storage.

          With a very simple two component system we could meet demand when it occurs. We clearly would not need any “baseload” generation to meet all demand.

          • Brett

            Bobby, let’s make this very simple for you.

            Your academic plan does not work east of the Mississippi. And many parts west of the Mississippi as well. Not enough wind and sun and pumped hydro. And I worked on the Bear Swamp pumped hydro deal in Western Mass- it’s a one off gimmick. These are actual projects, not an academic paper.

            Yours truly,


          • Bob_Wallace

            Brett, you’re knowledge deficient.

            Let me give you a wind resource map for the US using 140 meter hub heights. And let me give you an average solar hour map for the US. If you look at the area east of the Mississippi you’ll see a lot of wind and solar resources. And if you look at the area west of the Mississippi you’ll see a lot of wind and solar resources.

            One more thing. Let me add an 80 meter hub height map, not for the onshore resources but for the offshore and Great Lakes resources.

            Now earlier you told us you were a ” a solar project developer” and now you’re claimed you work at a PuHS site.

            You don’t know that much about solar availability and you apparently don’t know that we have over 20 GW of PuHS in the US and we’re now building more. You apparently don’t know that we have thousands of existing dams that can be converted to PuHS and at least a thousand abandoned rock quarries on federal land alone.

          • Brett


            If the question was, can wind and solar exist East of the Miss, those cute little maps would answer affirmatively yes!

            However the question is, can wind and solar supply 100% of power consumption needs to all people, at all times, at all weather conditions. The answer, in 2016, and likely through 2100, is affirmatively NO!

            Your map doesn’t show 80 million people in the SouthEast running their ACs on high when it is 96 degrees and humid, without any wind nearby, and with occasional cloud cover.

            Nor does it solve the 5 million people in Boston who may go thru 2 weeks of constant cloud cover and sporadic wind. And I can go on and on and on and on.

            Transmission lines do not solve the issue either- I wish they did.

            Do you think the question is, can wind/solar work temporarily for 100%? I’d agree with you there. It doesn’t work for all people at all times though. If I lived in a sunny and windy area of California, I’d buy a lot of batteries and go for it. But, the world ain’t California, Bobby.

            Who pays you money to pump sunshine?

          • Brett

            You also have clearly no concept of the scale of DEMAND. It is multitudes larger than the ability to generate electrons, in much of the US, then your little maps can help satisfy. I’m going to add a ~50kw system to my personal roof in 2016. Very excited about it. And I’m also going to be very dependent on the grid, and my local CCGTs and nuclear power.

          • Bob_Wallace

            If you’re adding a 50 kW system then you must be living under the Pacific fog bank and running multiple hot tubs.

            And if you’re only adding solar then you will be dependent on the grid. But your big screen TV won’t require electrons from a reactor. There are grids all around the world that work just fine with no nuclear.

          • Steven F

            1 hour of full output from a 50Kwhr solar system would equal 1.5 months of my electricity usage. And that includes a volt that runs 90% of the time on electricity only.

            Your electricity useage is unusually large to requir that amount of power. A little efficiency would go a long way in reducing your power demand.

          • vensonata

            “Bretty,” what is it with the cutesy name stuff? Just present your case before the informed jury here. You got in over your head with a few casual exaggerations, referring to Jacobsen as a “college kid” and then claiming you had met him in person etc. The way to recover your dignity is to upscale your game, not to adopt a superior tone, which ill suits you.

          • Brett

            The college kid is Adam Johnston, the author. He;s studying the environment at U Toronto. Mark Jacobson to my knowledge is a great guy in his 40s who I’ve met and spoken with in length. Someone else misunderstood that.

            The people who sway me are the people who deploy capital- as they won’t do something unless they get a return, or they believe they will- whether funding Tesla, or NRG- that’s what drives the real world. And they pay engineers a lot of money to help let them know what is real, and what is a science project.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Lots of people deploy capital that goes straight down the dumper.

          • vensonata

            Adam Johnston is a grown man, with credentials. He is quoting the study by Mark Jacobson. You must give some substance to your dismissals. Or you can give purely emotional arguments, which really are not of any interest to the forum here. This is not open line radio, this is print and you can be precise and make the rational and numerically supported argument.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Brett, you really don’t want to start a pissing match that you are guaranteed to lose. If you want to get your questions answered then ask them like a grownup.

            I just told you how wind or solar along with ample storage can power grids 24/365 anywhere. That does not mean that a solar/storage or wind/storage system would be the smart solution. A mix of renewables and a mix of storage tailored to the specific site is going to be the smart, economical solution.

            Transmission will play a much larger role in future grids. That’s how one best does the job with renewables. The farther one spreads the net the lower the variability.

            The trick will be to find the best mix of RE, storage, transmission and load-shifting for each region. That’s something that we will develop organically, adjusting the mix as we go along and experience cost and technology changes.

          • Brett

            You’re telling me to act like a grown up Bob? Which one of us had their post deleted simply for not supporting the agenda of the article?

            Vladimir Putin says hello by the way and nice job.

            Vensonata- you say to add substance- and yet the alternative is an academic article widely panned by industry engineers. Mark’s paper is not substance, it would be a great PhD thesis if he didn’t have his PhD already.

            Bob says transmission will play a larger role- great, but with current technology the Texas CREZ projects cost around $4B just to connect West Texas with central Texas. And some of you think there is the capital and ability to cross continents and oceans with transmission lines? There is zero knowledge of transmission losses- something to lengthy to post about here Vensonata. Anyone can google it if there is a legitimate interest to learn. Start with the Texas CREZ project, see how much it cost for what it connected. Then do the math if you want to connect Georgia and Florida etc power consumption to 100GW of wind and solar not currently anywhere within 2,000 miles away.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Brett, if you don’t like this site then just go away.

          • Brett

            Bob, if you don’t like reality, go to academia and write papers. And if you’re against open debate and an honest exchange of ideas, go form a cult.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Brett, I’m serious. Cut the crap or you’re leaving.

          • Brett

            Bob, don’t ever threaten me or anyone else. Internet bully losers don’t win intelligent conversations. The others here can see your insecurity when you go to digs rather than responses.

            And when someone googles “Bob Wallace” and Cleantechnica, the first result is another thread where you were told to stop harassing people. You must have a great job doing this all day long.

          • vensonata

            We have had many a discussion about grids and transmission costs. This is not a new idea. If you have details post them. There are 13 ways to look at a blackbird.

          • eveee

            “However the question is, can wind and solar supply 100% of power consumption needs to all people, at all times, at all weather conditions.”

            Yes it can. Here’s how.


            And here. Try this map. Its from an NREL study for 80% renewables by 2050. No you don’t need to get 80% in the South to get an average of 80% in the US. The Pacific Northwest, for one, could be close to 100% by itself, with hydro and wind, well before 2050. And taller wind towers and transmission lines from Texas, Oklahoma, and the Midwest provide energy to the South and East. It doesn’t have to be made in the South or East to provide energy there. It can be transmitted.



            Yes the world aint California. Nor is it your backyard. Its connected by transmission lines. Thats the problem with your thinking. If it aint raining in your back yard it aint raining anywhere.

            Take a look at the map. Its for 80% renewables by 2050. Not every region reaches that, but it doesn’t have to. If some regions are more, some less, the average of the US is higher. The study was done in 2010. It also referenced 90% renewables. It used 50% wind and solar, 30% geothermal, hydro, biomass. No breakthroughs, only existing tech with gradual improvements. only 10% storage.

            And costs the same as business as usual.

            “new 2014 cost numbers are much more in line with 2020 cost estimates of the updated ATI scenario (which now looks like it also has conservative cost estimates) and that scenario reaches 80 percent renewables in 2050 at almost no increased cost relative to business as usual.”


            Support your statements with references, facts, and citations.

          • Matt

            Brett have you looked at the 120 and 140 meter wind maps. Oh dear all the south east does have useable wind. And in 10 years we will be looking at 150 meter hubs.

          • Brett

            Matt- that’s great. I hope states like GA and SC get a few hundred MW of wind. The problem is demand dwarfs that supply. Check out the demand data available online and compare that to the wind map you refer to.

          • eveee

            So what’s wrong with NRELs future study that shows,

            “new 2014 cost numbers are much more in line with 2020 cost estimates of the updated ATI scenario (which now looks like it also has conservative cost estimates) and that scenario reaches 80 percent renewables in 2050 at almost no increased cost relative to business as usual.”


      • Bob. Some of us are thicker than the average bear and need a little guidance.

        Where are these rules posted that you speak of?

    • Tom


    • Roger Pham

      Yes, RE when properly configured for 24/7 reliable power delivery will definitely cost more than fossil-fuel plants. Market force alone will unlikely lead us to a 100% RE future in time to avoid GW disaster.

      As such, a government mandate to gradually phase in RE gradually will be necessary. For example, 0.5% increase yearly in RE content of ALL forms of energy for 5 years, then going up to 1% yearly increase for the next 5 years, then to 1.5% increase yearly for the third set of 5 years…and so on, until we will have arrived at 100% RE in about 50 years.

      This will guarantee eventual and timely arrival at 100% in time to avert diasaster. This phasing-in schedule is gradual enough that the energy companies and utility companies have time to divest from new FF investments into new RE investments, while still can recoup from previous FF investments.

      • Bob_Wallace

        Not if you include external costs for FF. And we do pay those costs.

        • Roger Pham

          Absolutely. This will give additional moral authority for the RE-phasing-in mandate.

      • eveee

        Definitely you say? “when properly configured for 24/7 reliable power delivery will definitely cost more than fossil-fuel plants”

        Its remarkable how confident you can be making incorrect statements ilke that without any references or citations.

        Not from NREL’s Energy Futures Study.

        “new 2014 cost numbers are much more in line with 2020 cost estimates of the updated ATI scenario (which now looks like it also has conservative cost estimates) and that scenario reaches 80 percent renewables in 2050 at almost no increased cost relative to business as usual.”


        Or from studies of wind integration costs.

        “Studies show nuclear and large fossil plants actually have “far higher integration costs than renewables,”


        Try researching next time before making false statements.

        • Roger Pham

          Many thanks for the good news, eveee, and the for updated info. Then, what are the utility companies waiting for?
          The more the reason to pressure the Federal Government to start mandating a comprehensive phasing-in of RE in ALL energy forms! I hope you will help me with that.

    • Steve


      Transmitting electricity at high voltage reduces the fraction of energy lost to resistance, which varies depending on the specific conductors, the current flowing, and the length of the transmission line. For example, a 100-mile (160 km) 765 kV line carrying 1000 MW of power can have losses of 1.1% to 0.5%. A 345 kV line carrying the same load across the same distance has losses of 4.2%.[12]

      Transmission and distribution losses in the USA were estimated at 6.6% in 1997[14] and 6.5% in 2007.[14] By using underground DC transmission, these losses can be cut in half.

      • Bob_Wallace

        According to the EIA most of the 6% to 7% transmission/distribution losses are at the distribution (local) level.

        Burying HVDC can be very expensive. Just saving 1% or so of the power probably would never pay for the cost.

        • Steve

          I see. Thanks for your reply and participation.

  • Storage is a big deal but there are solutions to this problem. I agree with @scottishscientist:disqus he has given some very good solutions to this problem in his posts.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Look at his ideas more carefully. IMO he does not offer a valid solution. He puts far too much of the system in a very harsh environment.

  • There are large scale in use today lithium ion battery banking projects in the USA and overseas that are making MV voltage from dc to ac inverter setups. 1st photo is 10 MV built by AES in Maryland 2nd was built by Duke Energy a decommissioned coal plant in Ohio 3 MV. Just 1 MV is 100,000 volts. It is very easy to take solar and wind dc sources of charging energy and make your own mini microgrid dc to ac power. example 48 volt dc to 7200 volt ac with step up and step down transformers. The trick here is to use multi banks of float voltage batteries pulled online and offline with smart switching PLC automation. Another company from the UK-Victron Energy has completed a dairy operation that uses dc to ac inverter setups that run 3 phase milking machines and refrigeration all off lithium ion batteries.

    I am a retired master electrician with 42 years experience and off grid free power is possible right now today that is safe clean and reliable 7/24/365 using just off the shelf products from quality vendors. These mini microgrids are so fast that switching between different power sources do not require clock resets or computer reboots. example auto start generator power to battery power or grid tied power to battery power. Pure sine wave electrical power as used in hospitals, factories, telecom scaled down that can be pre built containerized and shipped anywhere. So why wait for 2050 when going off grid can be completed in 2016?

  • 2 proposals for energy storage –
    1) massively bigger pumped-storage hydro schemes,
    2) deep-sea hydrogen storage

    • World’s biggest-ever pumped-storage hydro-scheme, for Scotland?

      “The maximum potential energy which could be stored by such a scheme is colossal – about 6800 Gigawatt-hours – or 283 Gigawatt-days – enough capacity to balance and back-up the intermittent renewable energy generators such as wind and solar power for the whole of Europe!”

      • wildisreal

        Whatever. All they got to do is find that monster and put him on a treadmill. 24/7 no storage required with that one, from what I hear.

    • Off-Shore Electricity from Wind, Solar and Hydrogen Power

      The diagram shows how hydrogen gas can be used to store energy from renewable-energy platforms floating at sea by sending any surplus wind and solar electrical power down a sub-sea cable to power underwater high-pressure electrolysis to make compressed hydrogen to store in underwater inflatable gas-bags.

      It’s potentially very cheap because no super-strong pressure containment vessels are required – the ambient hydrostatic pressure which is proportional to depth serves to compress the hydrogen gas to containable densities.

      • Roger Pham

        I thought about the same idea some time ago, and this is great for coastal areas. Deep in-land locations can also use depleted oil and gas wells, or existing natural gas reservoirs for very little additional cost and maintenance cost. New underground H2 reservoir can be made from salt caverns where geologic condition permitting such.

        The problem of using H2 as grid energy storage means is the high loss involved. Round-trip efficiency is only around 33% or less. Much higher efficiency can be obtained, up to 80% round-trip efficiency can be obtained, when the H2 is used for both electricity and waste heat purposes.
        For example, using day-time solar energy to make H2, which can be used at sundown to power household electricity loads using FC or combustion engine, then the waste heat can be used to make hot water for bathing and laundry later on.
        H2 produced in Springs and falls can be used in Winters for both electricity and heat.

        When heat is not necessary, Pumped-hydro, battery, or compressed air can be used for higher round-trip efficiency.

        • fairfireman21

          No the natural gas lines can not handle up to 100% H2.
          Embrittlement is the big issue.
          So far it can only be mixed up to 50% at low pressure.
          If you say to use NG and h2 in apliances then you are talking a fuel that would cost more than two times more to use per thurm.

          • Roger Pham

            Yes, indeed high-pressure NG pipeline cannot handle over 50% H2. However, low-pressure piping made from low-strength steel (low-carbon steel) and iron pipe, and polyethylene, are not susceptible to hydrogen embrittlement even at 100% concentration. It takes the high pressure to drive the H2 deep into the high-strength high-carbon steel lattice to react with the carbon atoms to form methane, and in so doing, weaken the steel’s structure. Low H2 pressure and low-carbon steel are not susceptible to this problem.

            The higher cost of the H2 will not be a problem when there will be a mandate of gradual phasing-in of Renewable Energy (RE) content in ALL forms of energy. Very likely that the now-higher cost of H2 will come down with experience in design and in non-platinum catalysts and electrodes, and economy of scale.

            Without a RE mandate, it will be a chicken and the egg problem. High cost of RE-H2 or RE-whatever will discourage development and economy of scale, thus prices of RE-whatever energy forms will remain high for a very long time.
            However, with a mandate forcing gradual RE penetration into ALL forms of energy, the chicken-and-the-egg problem will be solved. “Necessity is the mother of invention.” The RE phasing-in mandate will create the “necessity” part which will lead to many new and wonderful RE inventions and large-scale development, to bring the costs and inconvenience way, way down, eventually to become cost-competitive with any forms of fossil fuels.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Roger, why do you ignore physics?

            Are you so enamored of hydrogen that you ignore its problems?

          • fairfireman21

            Yes he does.
            I have given proof after proof and it is the same old stuff.
            That is why I have said he is like a broken record.

          • Roger Pham

            Hydrogen as a fuel can be made using water, two electrodes, and an electric current from renewable sources.
            Hydrogen is non polluting, unlike liquid fuels, and is not a green house gas (GHG), unlike methane, which has 20x the GHG index as CO2. Only one fuel, H2 in Fuel Cell, would qualify for the Zero-Emission Vehicle mandate.

            So, instead of H2 and we synthesize liquid fuels, we will have more energy losses during the synthesis process, higher cost, and more pollution risk afterward when spilled into the environment. We will have also more efficiency loss in combustion engine. Can’t qualify for ZEV mandate.

            So, instead of H2 and we synthesize methane to take advantage of the NG infrastructure, we will have more energy losses during synthesis, and more seriously, we will have to deal the leakage of methane into the air as a potent GHG 20x that of CO2. Then, we will have higher efficiency loss when used in combustion engine. Can’t qualify for ZEV mandate.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Roger, I’ve asked you to read the site comment rule and to follow them. I’m going to copy out the critical parts you either did not read or refused to follow.

            “Here are some things that can get your comments removed”

            “repeatedly posting illogical or demonstrably incorrect statements”

            “If you repeatedly violate commenting rules then you will lose the privilege of commenting.”

          • fairfireman21

            Iron and steel pipes can not handle 100% H2 at neither high nor low pressure.

          • Roger Pham

            Thanks for the link, fairfireman21. On that same link, I found this:

            “Steel with an ultimate tensile strength of less than 1000 MPa (~145,000 psi) or hardness of less than 30 HRC is NOT generally considered susceptible to hydrogen embrittlement. In tensile tests carried out on several structural metals under high-pressure molecular hydrogen environment, it has been shown that austenitic stainless steels, aluminium (including alloys), copper (including alloys, e.g. beryllium copper) are not susceptible to hydrogen embrittlement along with a few other metals.[6][7

            I hope that the above quote will help you understand this topic better.

          • fairfireman21

            I understand the issue you are the one that doesn’t.

          • fairfireman21
  • JamesWimberley

    Jacobson’s paper came out last August and was reported at the time. Still, it could use more advertising.

  • Brett

    I think it’s adorable that a college student is dreaming about 100% renewables. Not realistic at all, but good to have goals.

    In the real world, you still need baseload power- and that fictional chart above is not real world. Start learning to embrace the idea that you need something that can start up and produce at 500MW capacity with 20 minutes notice- something wind and solar and plenty of batteries can’t do. Start learning to give nuclear, hydro and CCGT a big hug- because we will all need them to complement solar and wind for a long, long time.

    From- a solar project developer who is realistic.

    • JamesWimberley

      Mark Jacobson isn’t a college student but a tenured full professor at Stanford, one of the best engineering schools in the world. Engage brain before opening mouth.

    • eveee

      Inflexible base load power plants are not and never were needed. What is needed is a way to match demand with supply. That requires flexible, agile sources that can respond quickly to daily demand variations. Baseload power plants cannot do that. They are too slow. Thats what peaker plants are for. They can follow fast load changes.
      Baseload power plants also must have fast backup in case they have sudden unplanned outages.
      Hydro can respond quickly to demand changes like a peaker power plant. Not so coal and nuclear.
      Even CSP solar with storage can act as a flexible source. So can geothermal and biomass.

      • Frank

        Baseload power plants are not only slow, but some of them crack and fail early if you vary the output too often. They want to stay at the same temperature and pressure. The biggest advantage of the whole baseload generation concept is that it’s simple and easy to understand, like a rotary phone.

    • neroden

      Baseload is a myth. You don’t need it.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Brett, you might be a solar project developer and you might be a realist. But apparently you’re a bit short on knowledge.

      Do some reading on 100% RE grids.

      • Brett

        That’s great to see my original post, that was free of insults and merely offered an opposing view deleted by CleanTechnica.

        Apparently open discussion is discouraged if its not in line with the agenda.

        And I have spoken with Mark Jacobson personally when he was an invited guest at a conference my former company organized. His paper about 100% RE is a concept that will never see reality given its political, financial limitations- and he attempts to state its mechanically possible which is up to debate by other, also qualified academics.

        In the mean time in the real world, base load power is still needed. Sorry folks.

        • Bob_Wallace

          We’re sorry that you are so dishonest.

  • vensonata

    Excellent. Notice that 2020 requires 15% electricity throughout the U.S. produced by PV and wind. We are talking 15% of 4000twh = 600twh. To generate 50% of that by PV requires 270 Gw of PV. That means 55 Gw per year, every year, of newly installed PV. And that means 55 times the production capacity of the largest PV factory in the U.S. (Solarcity in Buffalo…still not up and running). In other words, it is simply impossible to come close to the 2020 aspirations, even as a Manhattan project. However, it won’t hurt to aim for it. Thinks of the number of jobs that project would create!

    • Omega Centauri

      Interestingly 55GW is roughly annual world supply/demand for PV for that period. So it would be doable, if we took the lions sharge of world production!

    • Freddy D

      CAGR – Compound Annual Growth Rate. Combine that with relentless cost reductions in PV and wind and storage. 2015 global PV installations approx 50GW, growing at approx 25% per year. (July 11th, Cleantechnica). Keep playing out the CAGR that’s continued unbroken for 30 years and capacity doubles every 3-4 years and the decimal point moves over one every decade. The important point for now isn’t the last 30% in the 2040s, but rather moving from 5% today to 50% by 2030.

  • phineasjw

    Admirable goals, but with solar making up 54.5% of the pie, what happens when it’s stormy/cloudy for an entire week? Or two weeks?

    How can you store that much energy to account for extended/unpredictable weather patterns? How can the other 45% energy sources carry 100% in extended down times (made worse by the fact that 77% of that remaining 45% is wind power that is itself influenced by the weather)?

    Here’s what a typical rooftop solar installation looks like in the Northeast for the month of December. The peak day’s output is about 26kWh, the lowest day is 1kWh. That’s not a 10 or 20% reduction in output, that’s a 2500% reduction…

    • vensonata

      I am glad you asked. It has been my little hobby to figure the answer out. And by the way, it is a fair question, and should not be dismissed with a vague assurance that PV and Wind will always manage because of a large grid structure. They won’t.
      However your assumptions are also excessive. There will never be more than 5 days when there is no sun and no wind on a grid of one million sq miles in the U.S. However even with overbuilding we certainly will be short of 100% capacity. We could see 50% production fairly often and occasionally even 15%. So…of course we need storage. My hobby has been to estimate how much storage and how much it will cost. And here, in brief, is the comfortable answer: 1% of annual demand in chemical battery storage, that is 3.5 days of 100% of the power required to run the U.S. without any other source. That amounts to a battery that can store 40Twh of electricity. At very good, but still realistic prices, the bill for that sir, is 2 trillion dollars! If you gasped, I can pardon your initial alarm. Don’t worry the battery lasts for 30 years and can cycle 30 times per year. The bottom line is 66 billion dollars per year. That means 16% increase to the regular cost of the present electricity bill for the US of 400 billion per year. Note that the charts in the article indicate though, that efficiency savings will reduce consumption by 30%. In the end there will be no increase in cost at all.
      If one is still worried about shortfalls. Natural gas emergency generators will be there and will possibly contribute .5% of the present carbon production. In other words, a negligible amount.

      • I have solutions for energy storage – see my earlier posts

        • Bob_Wallace

          Quit spamming.

      • wildisreal

        I like these numbers. The only downside is destroying the paper value of all fossil fuel generating infrastructure in the process. No problem I’m sure everyone will be down with that.

        • Anthony C

          I’m down with it. These executives make big bucks to see the market and plan against it. The cost of each power plant is laid out against how long to pay for it, so once they realized, as they should have around 10 years ago, that the winds were changing, they should have started adapting. Even if they don’t the lifecycle of a plant will mean the older less efficient ones go away first and it will simply phase out over time. So I would think most plants will close only after they’ve paid for themselves. Since we aren’t going to 100% renewable tomorrow, there’s plenty of time for it to happen naturally.

      • globi

        Btw, hydro power is an excellent flexible power source (power which can relatively easily multiplied without having to build new dams) of which the world already has already 1055 GW installed (far more than wind and PV combined).

    • Their reports examine the energy needs of these places in 15 minute increments throughout the year, iirc. Jump into the deeper reports on their site for more.

    • The Solutions Project includes support from storage, occasional use of natural gas generators, and plenty of dispatchable renewables such as hydro, geothermal, wave devices, and tidal turbines. More intelligent demand response and management will also help.

    • Tom Capon

      1) Unless a volcano covers the planet in ash, the sun will always be shining somewhere. There is no such thing as “extended downtime” on a nation-wide scale. Your panels may make 26kWh one day and 1kWh the next, but your storm is only blocking a fraction of the panels in your state. It is a small overall drop and easily handled by grid redistribution and a modest fleet of batteries.

      2) Almost universally, weather that is bad for solar is good for wind. Unless you are stuck in the middle of a blade-ripping hurricane, the storms blocking your solar panels are driving nearby wind turbines at a good clip. On calm days with little wind, the weather is more than likely to be sunny. So once again, the grid must handle only a modest drop in overall output.

      3) For the foreseeable future, there will be dispatchable fossil fuel resources on the grid. But those will be there only to support consumer- and substation-level batteries that will take care of minute-to-minute and day-to-day discrepancies. These batteries are already being installed because they are cheaper than peaker plants, regardless of renewables.

      4) The ultimate answer is, in fact, overproduction. When fuel is free, seasonal storage must compete directly with simply increasing production. The answer depends upon the price of batteries, solar panels, and wind turbines, and will surely change over time and location, but all are cheaper in the long run than constantly paying for fuel.

      • neroden

        Huh, yeah, I didn’t think of the “Krakatoa problem”. I guess that could cause a global coordinated loss of solar power. The gigantic crop failures would be a bigger problem though.

        • Steven F

          Mount Pinatubo was the biggest eruption in the last 100year. At the time California had a 375MW of solar thermal power plants. Output that year was down 20 to 30%. That still left a sizable amount of power production. Not zero production.

          • Anthony C

            When Yellowstone blows, I gotta think it goes down to at least 50%, with a large swath of US down 100%.

          • Mike Shurtleff

            Yellowstone is a super-volcano. Last one of those to blow was Toba, 84,000 years ago, give or take. Global nuclear winter for 4 or 5 years nearly wiped out homo sapiens.
            If you’re gunna survive that then you’d better have an SMR and electric (LED) lights for growing food. ….an insulated warehouse for growing your food …seeds and fertilizer.

    • Check out my earlier posts for my solutions for energy storage

    • eveee

      The paper is about the output of many wind, solar, and other power sources integrated over a wide area. There are articles that explain how this is done.

      A single rooftop installation will have far more variability. That single graph you show, looks much different, when 20 units are combined.

      Its not just wind and PV solar, its many other sources, too, like hydro, that are available more often. When these different units are combined over a wide area, the output is smoother and more regular.

      Over a wide area, locations with excess can ship to other locations needing the power.

      When one source is unavailable, another can stand in. Rooftop solar is only a small percentage of the total. The graph shows the average amounts, not the peaks.

      Consider also, that 2 weeks out of 52 is about 4% of the time.

    • neroden

      I don’t think it’s ever been stormy and cloudy over the entire world at once.

      In short, that’s what the transmission grid is for.

    • Global Citizen

      Why Mexico is thy neighbour with DESERT to keep DESSERT in Uncle Sam’s freezer frozen ?

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