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Scientists: 100% Renewables Increasingly Possible

Researchers say 100% renewables is not presently affordable.Researchers say 100% renewables is not presently affordable.

Research may be toppling one of the strongest objections to renewable energy: Wind and solar are not reliable enough to support the grid 24-7-365, so they need fossil and nuclear backup.

Scientists seem to be finding solutions to the variability and uncertainty of wind and solar that are, in some cases, relatively simple and cheap, Forbes reported.

“I think the landscape has really changed in terms of whether or not the world community understands the transition to 100% non-emitting energy as something we can accomplish,” said Chris Field, founding director of Stanford’s Carnegie Department of Global Ecology.  “I think the answer only a few years ago was maybe, and now the answer is clearly yes.”

Non-emitting energy includes nuclear power, but in a video released this week, Field goes on to argue that a system of 100% renewables is technically possible, though not presently affordable.

“With a really ambitious commitment to building out the storage and load-balancing and demand-balancing components, it looks like it’s technically feasible to build an energy system with a high amount of renewables,” Field said.

“It may be too expensive—and an energy system that’s got fossil with CCS (carbon capture and storage) and has some nuclear is likely to be a lot more robust and cheaper and more reliable. But we could do it.”

Among the simplest and cheapest options are better coordination between grid operators, the use of larger geographic areas to balance load and demand, and the use of shorter intervals of time to decide how much power to dispatch to different areas—dispatching in 5-minute increments, for example, instead of hourly.

 

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