Like stocks and bonds, it’s important to diversify a community’s power portfolio. Too much investment in any one type or brand of energy production can have disastrous economic and environmental implications. This has been the case with our country’s over-dependence on dirty fossil fuels such as coal for electricity production.
To combat our dangerous dependency on carbon-emission burning energy we propose a rebalancing of our energy profile into a low-carbon grid.
This low-carbon grid relies on a blend of clean energy-producing technologies such as wind, solar, biomass and hydropower as well as energy efficiency improvements to homes and electrical grids.
Solar thermal power plants capture heat from sunlight and use it to generate electricity. The captured heat energy is fed into a steam cycle that spins a turbine. The produced electricity can be stored or released directly into the grid. The technology can potentially provide enough energy several times greater than current global consumption.i
A modern-sized large wind turbine can produce 6 millions kilowatt hours of electricity per year – enough to run 600 average American households.ii
Today, some 39,000 megawatts of wind energy have been installed throughout the world with more than 83,000 cumulative megawatts predicted worldwide by 2007. The cost of wind energy averages out to 3.5 to 4 cents per kilowatt hour and declining – less than coal, oil, nuclear and most natural gas-fired plants.iii
California contains the largest amount of geothermal generating capacity in the United States thanks to its unique position on the Pacific “ring of fire” and the tectonic structure that gives the state its well-documented shaky past. In 2007, California met 4.5 percent of all its energy needs via geothermal electricity. The state has 43 operating geothermal plants with an installed capacity of roughly 1,800 megawatts, giving California a two-thirds share of the entire US geothermal electricity output.iv
Over the long run, geothermal power plants are comparable in cost to natural gas-fired plants.v In the short run, the cost of building geothermal plants is a little higher than its natural gas counterpart, and limited by the availability of geothermal hot spots. But in the long run, their cost per kilowatt hour clocks in at a cheap $.05, making it one of the most economical clean energy options.vi
A smart grid network uses two-way communications throughout the grid to provide centralized command-and-control and enable energy efficiency to consumers. This technology also lets consumers and smart appliances actively meter their consumption to optimize their efficiency.vii
Smart grid technology allows for networks to self-heal from power disturbance events. Smart grid technology also strengthens the network from physical and cyber attack. It enables consumers to actively participate in demand response and accommodates all generation and storage options.