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100% Transition to Renewable Energy Might Not Be Possible, Study Shows

The Platte River Power Authority has successfully transformed half the energy generated by renewable energies by 2020, barely two years after Fort Collins and Longmont inaugurated resolutions calling for 100% renewable energy to be adopted by 2030. Pat Connors, Vice President of Platte River Power, said that although the achievement comes earlier than planned, the remaining 50% and specifically the last 10% will be much harder to achieve.

The company is slated to release its comprehensive strategy, outlining how it wants to accomplish this bold goal by the middle of 2020. A new study has however indicated that the project was a little overambitious, and could do be more effective if it required between 80% to 90% renewable energy and the rest covered by natural gas. The study was ordered by Community Energy and was run by Christopher Clack from Vibrant Clean Energy which is a software and service provider offering the shift to renewable energy.

Eric Blank, co-owner and director of Community Energy, said that the best way going forward would be not to go 100% electrical, but instead aiming for an 80% to 90% transition on buildings and transport systems. Natural gas would be used as a contingency as the building of new renewable power plants and storage facilities continues. It will also be used to provide additional power during winter since wind and solar plants do not produce much then.

To generate sufficient energy using solar, the company would need a solar array spanning 976 acres. Should Platte River Power Authority decide to use wind energy, eight more wind power generators would be required than NextEra Energy’s $330 million investment needed to build Roundhouse Wind Energy Centre’s turbines. Connors said that while both forms of the plan are possible, only 12.5% and 30% of power can be reliably obtained from the total capacity of wind and solar, respectively.

As a result, to guarantee that the company continuously provides power to all its consumers, it requires either access to three times more solar panels, covering approximately 4.5 square miles or eight times more wind farms, costing approximately $2.6 billion.  This would result in a rise in power costs since the company buys power from private utilities.

While improved battery capacity could solve the problem, the technology is not yet operational. Meanwhile, the company will have to continue using coal to provide power or as the study suggests, replacing the coal plants with the five natural gas turbines at Rawhide Power Station which produce around 40% less carbon dioxide.

This post was originally published on Food and Beverage Herald

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