We’re doing a great job of creating renewable energy—but we don’t have the infrastructure to actually use it

Posted by K R on

Better storage batteries and the framework to support them is key. Last week, some rare positive environmental news reached the public eye: Nearly half of all the new, large-scale electric power generation installed last year use renewable energy sources, according to the Energy Information Administration. The government agency reports that of the total 25 gigawatts of capacity installed in 2017, about 12 gigawatts of that amout came from clean energy—plus an extra 3.5 gigawatts of small-scale solar, like rooftop panels. This report follows in tandem with another good energy update: Almost all of the power plants shut down last year used fossil fuels as their source of energy. And most of those plants used coal, largely recognized as the most carbon intensive fuel type. And the good news keeps on rolling. We should expect this trend to continue, since the agency reports that power companies plan to retire nearly 10 gigawatts of coal power in 2018. So lots of good clean energy is coming our way. But are we ready for it? Without the right infrastructure in place, many experts argue, we may not be able to capture and transport all the energy these new installations are capable of providing. The root of the issue lies in the way we receive clean energy. Unlike fossil fuel plants, wind and solar power are intermittent sources of energy. If the wind isn’t blowing strong enough or there are too many clouds (or a solar eclipse), the supply of electricity might not meet the demand for it. On the opposite end, if there's strong winds or persistent sunlight, the supply could exceed the capacity to capture and use it.

Read More: Popular Science


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