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Friday, December 1, 2017

How Reliable Is Renewable Energy?


Solar panels and a wind turbine together at sunrise

One thing most Americans agree on is that it would be good for the country to be less reliant on foreign fossil fuels. The United States is less dependent on foreign oil than it used to be, but it’s far from being energy independent. 

Americans also worry about the increase of storms made even more powerful by climate change—like the hurricanes that ravaged the U.S. Southwestern and Eastern coasts this past summer. Such severe weather often knocks out the power grid right when people need it most. 

With even just these two factors, Americans are increasingly more interested in renewable energy. They’re also wondering, just how reliable is renewable energy? 

Adding More Energy Sources Is Better 

Evidence increasingly shows that relying more on renewable energy like solar and wind makes America’s electrical grid both more secure and more resilient to interruption; not less, as some have feared

Just like diversifying a financial portfolio, diversifying our electricity sources makes the entire grid more resistant to disruption and catastrophe. In the event of a massive storm or other event that cuts off the power supply, bringing coal, natural gas, or oil operations back online is a massive undertaking. In the worst-case scenario, a natural gas or oil spill (or of their byproducts) both disrupts the electrical grid and can also poison the land and water around it. 

But when an electrical grid depends on solar panels and wind turbines, it’s far less likely that one event could take out all power suppliers. And even if it does, it’s far easier and safer to get a wind turbine or solar panel operational again than fixing a gas pipeline or coal plant. With power supply coming in from many different origins, it’s also much less vulnerable to interruption. 

The Grid Industry and the Military Consider Renewables Reliable 

Many energy industry professionals agree that resiliency and reliability of renewables is not an issue. As recently as July of this year, a reliability draft-study came to that conclusion, and the grid industry weighed in on this issue of concern: “Officials at four grid operators, serving about 133 million customers, agreed renewables do not harm energy security or reliability. ‘I don’t see them as threatening, no,’ said Woody Rickerson, vice president of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. We can perform reliably with renewable generation; there are just things you have to do with renewables that you don’t have to do with (conventional) power generation.’” 

The U.S. military is also a proponent of renewable energy, because it sees a shift to renewables as a matter of national security. Using microgrids—a term that means a small electrical grid with a local supply source—the military is making its bases at home and overseas energy-self-sufficient. The easiest way to do that in most cases is to hook the microgrid to a source of electricity that relies only on things that are freely available, like the sun and the wind. With a goal of getting 50% of its energy from alternative sources by 2020, the Army already had 17 large-scale renewable projects in development in early 2016. 

The Department of Defense’s acceptance of renewable energy may also speed innovation and the development of devices for clean energy storage and collection—in the same way the 1960’s Space Race spawned inventions like duct tape and water filters.  

Here at CleanChoice Energy, we’re helping lead the country into a future of safe, secure, clean energy. CleanChoice Energy customers receive 100% renewable energy from wind and solar power. Learn how you can be a part of the renewable energy revolution, and switch to clean energy today.


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