Canadian Consulting Engineer

Model shows new transmission grid could quickly reduce greenhouse gases in U.S.

February 2, 2016

Researchers in the U.S. have created a sophisticated mathematical model that shows renewable energy sources could supply that country’s energy needs at affordable costs. The model also shows it is possible to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power production by up to 78% below 1990 levels within 15 years.

One of the key factors would be to scale up not just the generation of wind and solar energy production, but also to build a new transmission system to enable a mixture of different power sources.

The research is described in an article in the journal Nature Climate Change, and reproduced in The co-lead authors are Alexander MacDonald, retired director of NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, and Christopher Clack, a physicist and mathematician at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Their model studied meteorological data in detail and then evaluated the cost of integrating and mixing different generating sources into a national grid. The energy sources included both renewables and non-renewables like coal,


According to Clack, “The model relentlessly seeks the lowest-cost energy, whatever constraints are applied.”

The model also incorporates the costs of building a new, high-voltage direct-current transmission grid (HVDC) to supplement the existing grid. MacDonald said an HVDC grid could be transformative to the U.S. economy. “With an ‘interstate for electrons,’ renewable energy could be delivered anywhere in the country while emissions plummet. An HVDC grid would create a national electricity market in which all types of generation, including low-carbon sources, compete on a cost basis. The surprise was how dominant wind and solar could be.”

To read the article in, click here.



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