Could Batteries Power the United States?

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The US Department of Energy released exciting news of growth in wind power on August 9, 2017. It says wind capacity ‘in the construction funnel’ is 34% of the nation’s planned new generating power. Wind is already producing 79,985 megawatts or six percent of total currently generated. Now that wind has finally bypassed hydro, people are asking could batteries power the United States.

We Would Need a Rhode Island-Size Wind Farm

could batteries power the united states

Installed Wind Power 2016: Aflafla1: CC 4.0

Scientific American reports we have enough wind in America and Canada to meet all our electricity needs. According to a report by Business Insider, we would require a wind farm the size of Rhode Island to harvest it. Of course, we would distribute the half-million-turbines widely, to reduce transmission costs and energy losses.

Business Insider bases their calculation on the average wind turbine producing two megawatts of power, with a 40% efficiency rating because the wind does not blow that strongly all the time. The technology is relatively cheap, having fallen 90% over 25 years. So yes, a distributed wind farm the size of Rhode Island is doable.

Temporary Storage: Could Batteries Power the U.S.

U.S. energy demand varies according to time of day, and day of week. Moreover, we do also have windless days too. Hence, we would need energy storage in the mix before we relied on wind power completely. Here we need to think broader than batteries as we know them in autos, laptops, and smartphones.

could batteries power the united states

Hydroelectric Dam: Tenessee Valley: P Domain

Batteries are containers where we store energy until we need it. Hydropower can do the job by pumping water up a hill in off-peak times, and storing the liquid energy until releasing it to power turbines below. Scientific American thinks we would need about 80 gigawatts of hydropower, of which we currently have 20. This requirement will increase if we all drive electric cars.

The question is no longer could batteries power the United States, but do we have resolve to make this work. Scientific American warns we might have rolling blackouts in worst-case scenarios, until hydro re-stabilizes the grid. This could be a fair price to pay to avoid further global warming. Do you think we should do it? Is America up to the challenge…


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Preview Image: Hydro-Electric Scheme

Scientific American Report


About Author

I developed an abiding interest in electricity during my fourteen years managing facilities at a nuclear power station. I tripped over a shrinking bank balance and fell into the writing gig unintentionally after I fled the corporate world. Despite the fact that writing is no recipe for wealth, I rather enjoy it. Especially writing on this site, because in my small way I can contribute to a better environment for future generations, moving in technology I never imagined.

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