Eastern US Prime for Renewable Energy Increase
The necessary technology already exists for one-third of the power in the Eastern U.S. to be generated from renewable resources such as wind or solar within the next decade (10 years).
National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) performed a comprehensive feasibility study of the amount of renewable energy the Eastern US could handle, published in the 220-page Eastern Renewable Generation Integration Study. They found that it is possible to quickly begin switching to renewable energy sources using the current power grid.
The Eastern U.S. gets its energy from the Eastern Interconnection (EI) power grid. Historically powered by coal, nuclear, natural gas and hydro power the EI is over 100 years old and provides power for more than 240 million people.
One of the main questions in the study was whether or not the EI could handle variable power, which is what renewable resources provide, instead of the already in use dispatchable power. Variable power is only available when the natural resources are performing in a way to generate it and must be stored, while dispatchable power can be generated from a source by demand of the power grid operator.
Researchers at the NREL build a simulated EI. Considering the scope and complexity of the grid, building the simulation was an impressive feat.
Crunching sets of big data allowed the team to see how the EI would behave with different resource scenarios. The necessary technology for the analysis didn't exist until recently.
According to the study, the EI can handle up to 30 percent variable power using pre-existing technology. Switching over to more renewable sources will take space, money and transmission lines.
Service and reliability would not be affected by the switch. Now that we know it can be done, the only question left is if it will be done. To learn more about renewable energy, check out the video below.