Solar and wind energy can be the mainstays of Utah's electricity system, according to a new study released by the Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah (HEAL Utah).
The new report, titled ‘Utah: A Renewable Energy Roadmap,’ uses local wind and solar energy data to show how renewables, along with effective energy-storage technologies and energy-efficiency measures, can safely, reliably and affordably provide the majority of the state's electricity needs by the middle of this century.
The study was overseen by an advisory board made up of policy-makers, industrial energy users, developers, consumer advocates and energy experts.
The report also concludes that PacifiCorp, which supplies about four-fifths of Utah's electricity, is on the right track by focusing new generation on wind and natural-gas combined cycle plants. But it strongly recommends that Utah pursue compressed air energy-storage to make the wind energy available when it is needed.
Other key findings and recommendations from the report include the following:
– The lowest-cost way to a clean electricity sector with low carbon dioxide emissions is to use Utah's plentiful renewable energy sources with compressed air storage, supplemented by natural gas, to meet base load needs;
– Nuclear power is far riskier financially than renewables and natural gas;
– Renewable scenarios analyzed in the study will use 15 billion to 20 billion gallons of water per year less than continued reliance on coal. Even more water will be saved when compared to a mix of nuclear energy and coal with carbon capture and storage; and
– Implementing a distributed grid in conjunction with large-scale commercial renewable generation will likely be more cost-effective than a purely centralized approach because extremely large standby and storage capacity is needed to accommodate long periods with low wind and solar supply.
The report also recommends development of an intelligent electricity grid system and the implementation of aggressive building and appliance standards to increase efficiency.