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Jacobson Study Shows Multiple Paths to Grid Stability in 100% Renewable Future

Utilities around the world can rely on multiple methods to stabilize their electricity grids in a shift to 100% wind, solar, and hydroelectricity, Stanford University researcher Mark Z. Jacobson and colleagues reported last week, in a new study published in the journal Renewable Energy.

The paper builds on the Jacobson team’s past work, which mapped a 100% RE transition for 20 regions of the world encompassing 139 countries and looked at grid stability for the lower 48 states of the U.S. “That study only included one scenario for how to achieve the goals,” Stanford News recalls. “Some criticized that paper for relying too heavily on adding turbines to existing hydroelectric dams—which the group suggested in order to increase peak electricity production without changing the number or size of the dams.” Reviewers also said the paper placed too much emphasis on energy storage in water, ice, and underground rock formations.

“The solutions in the current paper address these criticisms by suggesting several different solutions for stabilizing energy produced with 100% clean, renewable sources,” the university release states. The modeling matched energy supply and demand in 30-second increments from 2050 to 2054, based on anticipated global weather patterns, future energy demand, and variability in supply and demand over hours and seasons.

“Based on these results, I can more confidently state that there is no technical or economic barrier to transitioning the entire world to 100% clean, renewable energy with a stable electric grid at low cost,” said Jacobson, senior fellow at the Stanford Precourt Institute for Energy and the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

“Our main result is that there are multiple solutions to the problem,” he added. “This is important, because the greatest barrier to the large-scale implementation of clean renewable energy is people’s perception that it’s too hard to keep the lights on with random wind and solar output.”