According to a study published by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), up to 80% of the power needed by the whole country could be supplied by renewable energy sources by 2050. The agency even believes that a large chunk of that — 50%, in fact — could come from wind and solar energy sources, which are sometimes criticized due to their unpredictable output.
This percentage, the NREL said, could be achieved using technologies already available today. Contribution by all 50 states is one of the keys to make it happen, with each state playing to its strengths. A region rich in sunshine, for instance, could concentrate on solar energy, while other regions could work mainly with biomass, hydropower, or something else.
If those numbers are to be realized, though, the renewable energy sector has to take action soon. As IEEE Spectrum points out, for instance, wind capacity in the U.S. should make the jump from its rough current estimate of 50 gigawatts to 439 gigawatts in 2050. To reach 439 gigawatts, more than 2,500 turbines have to be installed per year. Another issue to address is grid storage. A smarter power grid that can balance supply and demand from renewable energy sources is needed.
This study, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, is a collaborative effort by a number of entities, including non-government organizations and universities. While it shows a bright future for renewable energy, only time will tell whether we truly will be able to make the shift.
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