6.1 Does the continental United States have the weather to support large-scale wind and solar deployment?

Tuesday, 8 January 2013: 11:30 AM
Room 6A (Austin Convention Center)
Christopher T. Clack, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO; and A. MacDonald, A. Alexander, A. Dunbar, Y. Xie, and J. M. Wilczak

Handout (6.5 MB)

The potential for wind and solar energy to become a large percentage of total electricity production is dependent on how weather varies over geographic domains. A study of the characteristics of wind and solar energy generation systems as they vary with geographic size was conducted. The study used the 48 contiguous US states as a test domain alongside assimilated hourly weather data for 2006-8 and hourly electric load projected from 2006-8 to 2030. The model created optimizes the cost of the national system when taking into account building the electricity producing stations, building the transmission lines, allowing for transmission losses and the fuel burned in the dispatch-able generation. It is shown that wind and solar energy utilization increases significantly with domain size, while the total atmospheric carbon release and total system costs are reduced. The transmission does not significantly alter the utilization of wind and solar, however, it does dramatically change the areal locations of the wind and solar generation plants. A similar scaling for global land and adjacent coastal areas, with no transmission constraints, shows that wind and solar energy systems are most effective on large geographic entities.
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