Matching Utility Loads with Solar and Wind Power in North Carolina: Dealing with Intermittent Electricity Sources

by John Blackburn, Ph.D.
Professor of Economics Emeritus, Duke University
with a Foreword by Arjun Makhijani
March 2010

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PRESS RELEASE

GROUNDBREAKING STUDY FINDS SOLAR, WIND, OTHER RENEWABLE POWER SOURCES COULD MEET NEARLY ALL NORTH CAROLINA ELECTRICITY NEEDS

Takoma Park, Maryland, and Durham, North Carolina, March 4, 2010: Solar and wind power can supply the vast majority of North Carolina’s electricity needs, according to a major report released today. Combined with generation from hydroelectric and other renewable sources, such as landfill gas, only six percent of electricity would have to be purchased from outside the system or produced at conventional plants.

“Even though the wind does not blow nor the sun shine all the time, careful management, readily available storage and other renewable sources, can produce nearly all the electricity North Carolinians consume,” explained Dr. John Blackburn, the study’s author. Dr. Blackburn is Professor Emeritus of Economics and former Chancellor at Duke University.

“Critics of renewable power point out that solar and wind sources are intermittent,” Dr. Blackburn continued. “The truth is that solar and wind are complementary in North Carolina. Wind speeds are usually higher at night than in the daytime. They also blow faster in winter than summer. Solar generation, on the other hand, takes place in the daytime. Sunlight is only half as strong in winter as in summertime. Drawing wind power from different areas — the coast, mountains, the sounds or the ocean — reduces variations in generation. Using wind and solar in tandem is even more reliable. Together, they can generate three-fourths of the state’s electricity. When hydroelectric and other renewable sources are added, the gap to be filled is surprisingly small. Only six percent of North Carolina’s electricity would have to come from conventional power plants or from other systems.”

Jim Warren, Executive Director of the North Carolina Waste Awareness and Reduction Network (NC WARN), added, “Utilities and their allies are pressing policy-makers to allow construction of expensive and problem-ridden nuclear reactors – with ratepayers and taxpayers absorbing enormous financial risks. Prof. Blackburn’s groundbreaking study demonstrates that such risks are not necessary. Solar, wind and other renewable sources can meet nearly all of North Carolina’s energy needs.”

Dr. Arjun Makhijani, President of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER), explained why his center published Dr. Blackburn’s report. “This is a landmark case study of how solar and wind generation can be combined to provide round-the-clock electric power throughout the year. North Carolina utilities and regulators and those in other states should take this template, refine it, and make a renewable electricity future a reality.” Dr. Makhijani is the author of Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy.

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