Forget energy storage. We can go renewable without it, scientists say
In what might be the first epic mic drop ever to grace the pages of the journal Nature Climate Change, a group of researchers just announced that we don’t, in fact, need fancy energy storage technology to go renewable by 2030.
The news is a bit of a coup, given that cheap, ubiquitous energy storage is supposed to be what eventually solves the intermittency of clean energy sources — that is, the problem of not being able to power your hoverboard where the sun don’t shine and the wind don’t blow (and if you can’t have a flaming symbol of consumerism under your feet at all times in 2016, then really, what’s the point?). Which is why people like desert messiah Elon Musk and this guy on Kickstarter have been working hard to develop such a technology.
But the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration researchers behind this new study say that we could reduce CO2 emissions from the electricity sector by between 33 and 78 percent, relative to 1990 levels, by 2030 without energy storage. All we have to do, they say, is apply the same logic that we do to justify drinking at odd hours of the day. That is — it’s always 5 o’clock somewhere, and it’s always windy or sunny somewhere, too.
In other words: We shouldn’t be breaking the country into isolated regions of energy independence. Sure, North Dakota is far from New York, but it would actually be cheaper to build a transmission line from the windy plains of buffalo country to the East Coast than it would be to build an offshore wind farm, lead author Alexander MacDonald told IEEE Spectrum. And if we wire up the entire country with these “high-voltage direct-current” (HVDC) transmission lines, then it won’t matter so much if one region happens to be low on wind or sun. Here’s more from a press release: