HMC Physics Colloquium

Tuesdays at 16:30 in Shanahan Center for Teaching and Learning, Room B460

Trieu Mai

National Renewable Energy Laboratory

100% Renewable Electricity for the U.S.: Is it possible? Would it be enough?

April 27, 2021

A key pillar to decarbonizing the energy system is to clean up the electricity system primarily through renewable resources like wind and solar. Numerous studies have examined the impact of greater deployment of these technologies and new ambitions call for renewable energy to provide 100% of U.S. electricity generation—for example, President Biden calls for 100% clean energy by 2035. Over the past decade adoption of wind turbines and solar photovoltaic technologies have grown more rapidly than almost anyone anticipated, but wind and solar still contributed only 7% and 3%, respectively, of 2020 U.S. electricity generation. In this presentation, we describe the challenges of increasing renewable energy including ‘balancing’ variable wind and solar output with demand, maintaining grid reliability using inverter-based resources, finding an efficient market scheme, and siting, land use, other social factors. We also discuss the modeling approaches to study power systems comprised largely or wholly from renewable energy technologies. Finally, we conclude with a discussion of research gaps and the need for experts from multidisciplinary fields—from physicists to social scientists—to make 100% renewable energy (or close to it) a reality.