Drive through nearly any corner of America long enough and giant solar farms or rows of wind turbines come into view, all with the goal of increasing the country’s renewable energy use and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
But what some may not realize is at times these renewable energy sources can produce more power than what is needed, leaving some solar or wind energy to, in a sense, go to waste. This oversupply condition is a lost opportunity for these clean energy resources to displace pollution from fossil fuel-powered plants.
Investment could reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases by up to 90%, according to one scenario researchers examined of power systems in California and Texas. It could also increase the use of solar and wind energy at a time when climate change takes on greater urgency.
“The cost of energy storage is very important,” says study coauthor Maryam Arbabzadeh, a postdoctoral fellow at the School for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan. “But there are some incentives we could use to make it attractive economically, one being an emissions tax.”
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