Western US has great wind power and solar energy potential

By 2017, in less than seven years, solar and wind power will be able to meet 35% of the electricity demand of a large Western area of the USA, namely in five states: Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada .

Specifically, wind turbines could satisfy 30% and solar power 5% of the demand, according to the report entitled Western Wind and Solar Integration Study, compiled by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the leading research agency of the US Department of Energy.

According to the study, in order to achieve this result in such a short time, the investment already made in wind farm and solar infrastructure will be sufficient. Nevertheless, the latter must undergo a structural reorganization and, specifically, improved coordination on a great number of issues among the various energy companies and more frequent update of energy supply planning.

“Research shows that, with these key changes, wind and solar power could be incorporated onto the grid without a lot of backup generation. Coordinating operations between utilities on a large area decreases the effect of variability of wind and solar energy resources”, said Dr. Debra Lew, NREL project manager for the study.

Moreover, according to the report, even a less ambitious target – 27% of the electricity, instead of 35% – would be enough to lower carbon dioxide emissions by 25 to 45%.

The study complements the similar recently released report (Eastern Wind Integration and Transmission Study), which examines the feasibility of integrating a 30% share of wind energy also in the eastern states.