Jon Wellinghoff, the head of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, says that the U.S. may not need any new nuclear or coal power plants “ever.”
According to Wellinghof, the price to build nuclear and coal plants is too high, so the nation is better off building wind or solar projects. “The last price I saw for a nuke was north of $7,000 a kilowatt. That’s more expensive than a solar system,” said Wellinghoff, according to Bloomberg. He says coal costs less than that, but is still expensive.
To provide energy for the nation Wellinghof says there’s 500 to 700 gigawatts of developable wind in the Midwest and plenty of sunlight in the southwest. He also mentioned the potential for hydroelectric power. How do we deal with the fact that the sun doesn’t always shine and wind doesn’t always blow? Well, there’s already some technology that can store solar energy, he says. More importantly, we build bigger, better, smarter grid structures:
Wellinghoff, quoted by Greenwire: “I think it’s being settled by the digital grid moving forward,” he said. “We are going to have to go to a smart grid to get to this point I’m talking about. But if we don’t go to that digital grid, we’re not going to be able to move these renewables, anyway. So it’s all going to be an integral part of operating that grid efficiently.”
The other way to deal with intermitten renewable energy generation:
“That’s exactly what all the load response will do, the load response will provide that levelling ability, number one,” he said. “Number two, if you have wide interconnections across the entire interconnect, you’re going to have a lot of diversity with that wind. Not all the wind is going to stop at once. You’ll have some of it stop, some of it start, and all of that diversity is going to help you, as well.”
But planning for modifying the grid to integrate renewables must take place in the next three to five years, he said.
“If we don’t do that, then we miss the boat,”Wellinghoff said. “That planning has to take place so you don’t strand a lot of assets, a lot of supply assets.”
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