How to Leverage Regional Wind and Solar Power for the Entire U.S.

July 20, 2021

Wind and solar power can produce the lowest cost electricity and have a smaller carbon footprint than traditional energy sources like coal or natural gas.

However, based on current infrastructure and policy, geography poses a broader utilization challenge as the U.S. population primarily resides along the coasts, and wind is mainly produced in the Great Plains and solar in the Southwest. This is in part due to the fact that the electric grid was developed in the early 20th century when large remote power plants and high voltage transmission lines were the cost-effective approach.

Thankfully, we have more solutions to this challenge today:

Transport hydrogen rather than electricity – Rather than transport the solar- or wind-produced electricity, transport a different energy carrier – hydrogen. For years, European countries wrestled with ways to transport solar power from the Middle East and Northern Africa via major grid and transmission expansions. Today, the popular emerging approach is to move solar power using hydrogen as an efficient, low-carbon energy carrier. This is a model that could be easily replicated in the U.S. through existing infrastructure and transportation systems.

Examples of the globe’s embrace of hydrogen are becoming more commonplace. Major manufacturers for the turbines used in power plants like GE and Siemens are developing technology to operate using natural gas, hydrogen or a hybrid of the two. When cost-effective, barges on the river system or pipelines in the U.S. heartland could transport hydrogen produced from excess wind and solar power to the coasts where it can be used as a cleaner fuel in the legacy power system.

Waiting to invest in this technology is not a viable solution as delay will be expensive and risks putting the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage globally.

Read more here.

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