Can solar and wind power keep up with power demand from population, wealth and industrial growth?
The way we are currently using the electricity from wind and solar would never come close. Population, wealth and industrial growth need reliable electricity that will match the schedule of their needs.
No is the correct answer in this moments perception but in the near future, another view will emerge.
The electricity generated by wind and solar PV has zero incremental cost and can be used whenever it is available to “store” as heat, could ultimately start replacing the massive uses of heat that represent the 2/3 of the energy that is not electricity.
Electricity only provides 18% of the energy used in America. Petroleum products dominate the balance. Transportation is the largest category of energy use coming in at triple the energy consumption of all electrical uses. Industrial, commercial and residential heat uses twice the amount of energy consumed as electricity.
My personal advocacy is to start storing all of the produce-able electricity, that does not fit our electricity use patterns, to make and store distributed high-temperature heat, that can then start displacing vastly more carbon than our current electricity use patterns could ever do.
Hypothetically, if we can turn transportation into a massive semi-mobile battery that can be charged by this currently unusable electricity, and store massive amount as heat that can replace consumption, we could find wind and solar providing a much higher contribution to our energy mix than is currently imagined.
Copyright 2018 William Ross Williams