Earlier this week, the Washington Post asked a fascinating and important question: namely, "Are we wildly underestimating solar and wind power?" Here are the key conclusions:
- “Solar is growing exponentially...as panels keep getting dramatically cheaper."
- “Official agencies keep underestimating the growth rate of renewables” and "have consistently been too pessimistic."
- Using only current technology, renewables could technically provide the vast bulk of U.S. electricity by mid-century.
On that last bullet, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory recently conducted a thorough analysis and found that “[r]enewable electricity generation from technologies that are commercially available today, in combination with a more flexible electric system, is more than adequate to supply 80% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2050 while meeting electricity demand on an hourly basis in every region of the country.” NREL even provided a cool, animated graphic showing how it would play out.
Of course, there will be challenges, such as electricity grid integration, but NREL concluded that “a variety of technical and institutional solutions exist to help proactively meet these challenges” In other words, the challenges can be overcome, given sufficient political will and focused investment in building the needed power infrastructure.
The bottom line here? In spite of the clean energy skeptics, some of whom are funded by people with an interest in keeping us skeptical about transitioning from fossil fuels to wind and solar, the fact is that clean energy is growing exponentially, and that the technology already exists to switch the US to clean energy by mid-century. The only thing missing so far? The political will do make it happen.