100% green electricity potential exists in thirty US states
Arizona has massive solar power resources. Texas, Kansas, and South Dakota together could power the whole country with wind. And the Rocky Mountain region holds vast potential for geothermal power generation. Traditional thinking in renewable energy development holds that we should tap these resources, and then move the power generated around via a next-generation national electric grid.
A new report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance challenges this conventional wisdom, though, and makes the rather startling claim that 30 of the 50 US states could meet their own electricity demand entirely from in-state sources; seven more could generate 75% of their electricity needs this way. Thus, major (and expensive) improvements to the national grid may not be the most efficient use of resources: Energy Self-Reliant States argues that “a new extra high voltage inter-regional transmission network may not be needed to improve network reliability, relieve congestion and expand renewable energy. The focus should be on upgrading the transmission, subtransmission and distribution systems inside states.” State-based upgrades would include a focus on rooftop solar generation (which would be useful in 40 states), distributed storage (with plug-in electric vehicles serving as a readily available technology for this), smart grids, efficiency retrofitting, and, of course, tapping a variety of locally-available energy sources.
While there’s no reason to believe that Energy Self-Reliant States is the final word on the best way to provide electricity through renewables, it is good to see an argument out there for a decentralized approach to green electricity production. We still tend to think in terms of massive power plants when small-scale, localized solutions may be a better fit in many areas.
What do you think? Is energy development better left to states and localities? Does the federal government need to coordinate these efforts at some level? Or, should we move full steam ahead with a national approach to grid modernization?