We hear a lot about renewable energy, and suite of energy sources that’ll be required if we’re ever to wean ourselves off of oil and coal. But how, exactly, will all those energy sources fit together? How do you provide constant power, when the wind and sun are so unpredictable? And what mix of power will be economical, given the varying costs of each source?
Scientific American tackles that complex jigsaw in an essential story, “Powering a Green Planet.”
Mark Jacobson, a professor at Stanford, studied exactly how much power might come from various renewables. But he also took the extra step, of figuring out exactly how they might work together. The graph, designed by the geniuses at CatalogTree, summarizes that work (look for the graph on page seven of the interactive feature).
Jacobson looked at projected energy demands in 2020 and modeled what a typical July day might look like. Then, he analyzed the power outputs that could feasibly be delivered by various renewable sources. And finally, he combined those outputs, showing how renewables might provide constant, 24-hour power even though individually they’re waxing and waning throughout the day.
As Jacobson points out, studies like these will become increasingly necessary as renewables become widespread, and they’ll have to be tailored to the energy resources of each country. (Factoring in, for example, relative amounts of sunshine and wind.)
For more, check out “Powering a Green Planet”—Scientific American‘s sprawling, ambitious attempt to create a roadmap to 100% renewable energy use, by 2030.