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Saturday, September 25, 2021

Why the US isn't ready for clean energy

Why the US isn't ready for clean energy

the state of vermont has one of the greenest grids in the u.s two-thirds of their electricity comes from renewable energy sources like solar wind or hydroelectric plants the current goal is to be at 75 percent by 2032 which is why it was pretty surprising when a new solar project here was denied this area doesn't have a lot of people but it does have plenty of potential for renewable energy the power plants here in addition to a regular power supply from canada already put about 450 megawatts of electricity onto the grid and by grid i mean these power lines but the grid's capacity is around megawatts so the grid just wouldn't be able to handle any more power generated here. 

if we want a greener future in the u.s we'll need to build more renewable energy plants but to actually use that electricity we'll also need to build more of these this is a map of where everyone in the continental us lives the density of each county here's new york city la chicago and here's where every big power plant is currently appropriately they tend to be where the people are in washington dc where i live we get nearly all our electricity from surrounding states power plants mostly nuclear and natural gas electricity goes from the power plant through big high voltage transmission lines to a substation where the electricity is dispersed onto smaller lower power distribution lines that send it into my house [Music] like vermont dc also plans to be greener the goal is to have a hundred percent renewable sources making our electricity by 2032.


it's part of a national goal too president biden wants to reduce emissions in the u.s 50 by 2030 with nearly half of u.s power coming from solar plants by 2050. that means switching out those natural gas plants for wind turbines coal plants for solar farms lowering emissions also means switching from gas cars to electric cars heating our buildings not with natural gas but with electric heat pumps cooking on electric stoves basically we're going to be using a lot more electricity anywhere from 40 to 100 percent more than we currently use so back to the map if we're going to replace all these polluting energy plants we can't just build a wind turbine in their place they need to be where it's you know windy this is a model created by princeton mapping out possible places in the continental u.s where wind and solar projects could in theory be built aside from some offshore wind farms it's mostly in the middle of the u.s another study found that these states have most of the wind and solar potential yet the people living there would only make up 30 percent of the electricity demand in a decarbonized future we're going to need to get electricity from here to here and we're going to move a lot of it that's where high voltage transmission lines come in i think the infrastructure is the most important thing it doesn't get a lot of attention but it really is the key this is where the u.s currently has high voltage transmission lines the princeton model shows us this is where new lines will need to be built if the u.s uses all renewable energy by 2050.


but it's not a simple process every wire in your house has plastic over it because if two electrical lines get too close but high voltage power lines are the bare active wire no plastic they're insulated by the air basically if they're kept far enough apart from each other it's safe but they also have to be kept far away from everything trees included this is actually how some of the california wildfires were started trees coming in contact with the super big high voltage transmission lines and those are what we'll need more of as we lengthen the distance from energy source to energy need we'll also need to make many current ones even bigger because bigger means more power physically the cables are thicker the bigger the cable the more power can run through them and because they're bigger they have to be really far apart for insulation and built higher up it makes them kind of a pain to build partly because of how large they are but also how much private land they have to cross very often the developer can get 99 of the landowners to agree but then there's then that last one percent and that can take forever and can crater the whole thing so experts say we should start building now even before we build the plants you can do a generation project in a year the transmission three if you're lucky but it can go over ten we don't wanna do this in a reactive mode where we build a lot of stranded generation we want to proactively build the transmission to where we know the resources are and the thing about wind and solar resources is we know where they are a greener grid in the u.s means thinking nationally building more transmission lines so when it's sunny in arizona it can power chicago and at night illinois wind can power phoenix to do that efficiently the u.s will need a new interconnected high voltage grid princeton found it would take nearly billion dollars in investments in the next 10 years almost as much as investments in solar and wind plants themselves congress is working on an infrastructure build that contains some funding but really only a fraction of what's needed i'm optimistic about our ability to do it because we have done it before i am nervous about the execution between legislation regulation and industry follow-through the u.s is currently on track to have 42 percent of our energy come from renewables by 2050. if current proposals turn into real policy we could be closer to 80 percent but just making greener electricity isn't enough we have to be able to move its transmission's important for the clean energy future we're just not going to decarbonize without it do you 


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