New investments in green energy won’t have the same impact everywhere, researchers say.
According to a new study published Monday in Nature Sustainability magazine, some places will achieve greater environmental benefits than others from renewable energy sources.
“For years, researchers have taken different approaches to assess the environmental benefits of renewable energies,” said study co-author Harrison Fell in a press release.
“The Energy Information Administration began publishing detailed data on renewable energy production in 2018, and we realized we finally had the opportunity to use real-world data to address this problem,” said Fell, associate professor of energy at North Carolina State University.
The newly published study is the first to quantify emission reductions from new solar and wind generation using detailed data on green energy generation from different parts of the US, while also taking into account electricity trading between different regions.
The data showed that while replacing traditional power sources with wind and solar power will help reduce CO2 emissions regardless of location, it is different.
The reductions are greater in countries like Florida, where the electricity grids are mostly fossil-fueled, than in California, where green energy sources have already been thoroughly integrated into the electricity grid.
“One [megawatt hour] MWh of solar energy produced in Florida reduces carbon dioxide emissions by about double the MWh of solar energy produced in California, “said study co-author Jeremiah Johnson.
“That’s because California already has a cleaner electrical grid compared to other regions. Offsetting an hour of conventional power in California reduces carbon emissions less than offsetting an hour of conventional power in Florida,” said Johnson. Associate Professor of Civil Energy. Civil and Environmental Engineering at NC State.
The researchers hope that policy makers will use their findings to guide green energy investments to places where new sources of green electricity will have the greatest impact on CO2 emissions.
According to the new study, investing in green energy doesn’t just benefit local people.
Because of the way different regions of the country exchange electricity, green energy projects in one state can help balance traditional electricity sources in neighboring states, researchers found.
“At the moment, renewable energies are largely determined by different policies from state to state,” said Fell. “Our work here shows one reason why this is not a very efficient approach to energy policy.”
“A federal approach to renewable energy policy could better take into account the intergovernmental nature of energy production, energy consumption and environmental benefits,” Fell said.
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