Policy Update

First in Science: Wind and Solar Could Power Much of the US



NCEL Point of Contact

Clara Summers
Climate and Energy Manager

New Study Finds Wind and Solar Could Meet 80-100% of US Energy Needs With Increased Storage Capabilities

Currently, about 35% of carbon dioxide emissions in the US come from electricity production. To successfully combat climate change, carbon emissions from electricity must be addressed. As such, many states are working on following Hawaii’s lead in transitioning to 100% renewable energy.

The Study: Scientists studied 36 years worth of hour by hour US weather data to determine the geophysical barriers to supplying electricity solely from solar and wind. They calculated how much solar and wind power was available in different regions of the country as well as the ability to analyze the variations in time of day and seasons.

Results & Significance: The researchers from this study found that the US could supply 80% of our electricity needs by employing wind and solar through a cross-country transmission grid and by storing 12 hours worth of the nation’s energy demand. The US could reach 100% renewable energy by increasing storage capacity to three weeks. This study demonstrates the potential of renewables to power our electricity needs in the long run. It also shows the rapid growth of wind and solar potential as just five years ago it was thought that these sources could only account for 20-30%.