Windiest or Sunniest Sites Not Necessarily Best for Wind and Solar

Social benefits of renewable energy vary significantly based on where it is generated; looking at energy output isn’t enough

3 min read
Windiest or Sunniest Sites Not Necessarily Best for Wind and Solar
Benefit to Society? Solar farms in sunny Arizona may make the most electricity, but the generation it replaces isn't very polluting.
Photo: David Nunuk/Getty Images

Setting up wind and solar farms in places where the wind blows mightiest or the sun shines brightest isn’t the wisest move if you’re looking to reap the most social benefits, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have found.

They estimate that the environmental, health, and climate benefits of wind turbines and solar panels vary dramatically by location, ranging from US $10 to $100 per megawatt-hour (in 2010 dollars) of renewable energy generated. The results appeared last week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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How to Prevent Blackouts by Packetizing the Power Grid

The rules of the Internet can also balance electricity supply and demand

13 min read
How to Prevent Blackouts by Packetizing the Power Grid
Dan Page

Bad things happen when demand outstrips supply. We learned that lesson too well at the start of the pandemic, when demand for toilet paper, disinfecting wipes, masks, and ventilators outstripped the available supply. Today, chip shortages continue to disrupt the consumer electronics, automobile, and other sectors. Clearly, balancing the supply and demand of goods is critical for a stable, normal, functional society.

That need for balance is true of electric power grids, too. We got a heartrending reminder of this fact in February 2021, when Texas experienced an unprecedented and deadly winter freeze. Spiking demand for electric heat collided with supply problems created by frozen natural-gas equipment and below-average wind-power production. The resulting imbalance left more than 2 million households without power for days, caused at least 210 deaths, and led to economic losses of up to US $130 billion.

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