Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Can States Become Energy Self-Reliant?

Can regionally appropriate energy solutions like wind power in the Great Plains and solar in the Southwest help America's states become energy independent?

Treehugger reports that:

The Insitute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) has released a second version of its study titled Energy Self-Reliant States. In it they look at various ways that U.S. states could generate clean electricity locally (rooftop solar PV, onshore wind, offshore wind, etc). Just from the name of the institute, it's pretty obvious that they aren't in favor of centralized solutions to our energy problems, but at least they aren't all ideology: They back up their claims with a lot of data.

Among other things, the report claims:
All 36 states with either renewable energy goals or renewable energy mandates could meet them by relying on in-state renewable fuels. Sixty-four percent could be self-sufficient in electricity from in-state renewables; another 14 percent could generate 75 percent of their electricity from homegrown fuels. [...]

More than 40 states plus the District of Columbia could generate 25 percent of their electricity just with rooftop PV. [...]
much of the West and Midwest can be entirely self-sufficient by harnessing in-state [onshore] wind power [...]

Nine states could produce at least 10 percent of their domestic electricity consumption from conventional geothermal. Nevada could satisfy 40 percent of its electricity needs. [etc]

Now that's some interesting food for thought, backed up by pretty maps -- always a good selling piece (even if they don't necessarily tell the truth).

The report also claims that the cost savings on building and maintaining long-distance transmission lines helps make this type of local-to-regional energy solution economically competitive.  I'm going to have to take a good hard look at those numbers and ask my energy expert friends what they think.

What's your take?

Read more>>

Update: just got this response from one of my energy expert colleagues who I sent this out to -- Chris Nelder of GetRealList:

Even if they're right about the potential (and they could be) there's one hell of a difficult road between here and there. I don't think there's any practical alternative to building a HVDC grid, and potentially nationalizing the entire grid system, if only because without it, policy can't be formulated in time, capital can't be sufficiently mobilized (right--all those states struggling to pay a few cops & firefighters are going to spend hundreds of billions to build local renewable energy capacity without federal help?), and capacity can't be built in time. We're just plain outta time. Accordingly, projections like this drive me nuts. They paint a pretty picture about a goal without having any clue how you get there, and without any awareness that you have an extremely short period of time to do it. 

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