For a long time, people have believed that it’s impossible for solar and wind to provide more than a fraction of our overall energy mix. After all, you cannot just turn on the sun or wind with the flick of a switch.

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But a recent report by a team of President Obama’s economic advisers suggests that the inconsistency of renewables may not be such a big problem.

Gillingham: “What we wanted to understand, from an economics perspective, is how big of an issue is this really?”

That’s Kenneth Gillingham of Yale University. He says there are many recent examples of renewables supplying a lot of power to the grid. For example, in Texas, there have been times when wind has supplied more than 40 percent of the state’s energy.

Kenneth Gillingham
Kenneth Gillingham

It’s meant that utilities have needed to more carefully manage supply and demand. But Gillingham says that has not been a financial barrier.

Gillingham: “So far, in the United States, we have been putting more renewables onto the grid and the costs have been very, very low.”

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Adding even more wind and solar to the grid could pose new challenges, but energy storage is rapidly improving. Gillingham says that if we embrace new technology and re-think how we manage supply and demand, there’s no built-in limit to the amount of clean electricity we can add to our energy mix.

Reporting credit: Peter Lapin/ChavoBart Digital Media.
Power grid photo: Copyright protected.

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