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Solar energy could supply one-third of power in US West, study finds

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Posted August 5, 2013

Low-cost solar power could supply more than a third of all energy needs in the Western U.S., if the nation can hit its targets for reducing the cost of solar energy, according to a new study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley.

The UC Berkeley scientists used a detailed computer model they developed of the West’s electric power grid to predict what will happen if the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) succeeds with its SunShot Initiative, which aims to make solar power more affordable and accessible to Americans. The model also considered the effects of enacting proposed carbon policies, such as a carbon cap.

They found that achieving the SunShot target would allow solar photovoltaic technology to provide more than a third of electric power in the region by 2050, displacing natural gas, nuclear and carbon capture and sequestration technologies. This would reduce greenhouse gas emissions enough to help minimize the negative impacts of climate change, the researchers said.

“Given strategic long-term planning and research and policy support, the increase in electricity costs can be contained as we reduce emissions,” said study leader Dan Kammen, Distinguished Professor of Energy in UC Berkeley’s Energy and Resources Group. “Saving the planet may be possible at only a modest cost.”

Kammen and his UC Berkeley students are developing the computer model, called SWITCH, in the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) to study generation, transmission and storage options for the United States west of the Kansas/Colorado border as well as in northwest Mexico and the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia.

Read more at: Phys.org

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