Study shows simple way to use solar power

Posted at 7:11 PM, Jan 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-25 23:26:49-05

Researchers at CU-Boulder and NOAA think they've found a way to efficient gather renewable energy and transfer it anywhere in the country.

According to a new study released Monday, using wind and solar energy, meteorologists believe they can reliably gather energy and move it where it's needed. Scientists created a simulator that analyzes data from wind and solar weather models and effectively determines where the best places to collect energy are in the country. That simulator then calculated the easiest ways to transfer that energy from where it was gathered to energy users.

NOAA researcher Alexander MacDonald is one of the authors of the study and recently retired director of NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) in Boulder. He said the goal was to help solve energy issues with existing technology.

"The study shows that if you use the entire United States, and we use both wind and solar, we could actually have really effective wind and solar energy," said MacDonald. "The result is, costs that are about the same as today, but an 80 percent reduction in CO2 as a result of our study."

The study found that the wind is most consistent in the Midwest, and solar strength is more consistent in the south. Energy can be harvested at those hot spots, or where ever the sun shines or the wind blows, and moved through what researchers call a high voltage transmission network, essentially an interstate highway of electrical wires.

"We took the wind and solar data for a whole year, and the simulator told us how to set up a system that would decrease the cost the most and it turned out it used a whole lot of wind and solar energy," MacDonald said.

According to MacDonald, the interstate of wires could reduce the use of greenhouse gases by also reducing the use of natural gas.

The data was just published in the journal Nature Climate Change.