Wind and solar could power major countries


United KingdomWith the world’s attention focused on the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, plans for decarbonizing energy infrastructure are a hot topic.

However, opponents of renewables call into question the dependability of systems that rely on intermittent resources. A recent study done by experts at the University of California, Irvine addresses the issue of reliability head on.

The authors of a recent research, which included specialists from China’s Tsinghua University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, and Caltech, stated that majority of the present electricity demand in advanced, industrialized nations can be fulfilled by a combination of wind and solar power. However, that encouraging finding comes with the disclaimer that additional efforts would be required to fully meet the countries’ criteria.

According to the study, the most reliable systems, which are dominated by wind power, are capable of supplying electricity requirements in the countries analyzed 72 to 91 percent of the time, even without energy storage. With the addition of 12 hours of energy storage capacity, systems become solar-powered and can meet demand 83 to 94 percent of the time.

The researchers examined 39 years of hourly energy demand data from 42 major countries to assess the sufficiency of wind and solar power supplies to meet their needs. They discovered that a full transition to sustainable energy resources may be easier for larger, lower-latitude countries that can rely on solar electricity availability all year.

The researchers cited Germany as an example of a comparatively smaller country in terms of land mass, at a higher latitude, which will make meeting its electricity demands using wind and solar resources more difficult.

Among the solutions proposed by the researchers to this dilemma are increasing generating capacity to exceed annual demand, creating long-term storage capacities, and pooling resources from different nations on a continental land mass.

The researchers discovered that a wind and solar power system could meet roughly 85 percent of the total electricity demand in the United States, and that amount could be increased further through capacity expansion, the addition of batteries and other storage methods, and collaboration with other national partners on the North American continent.