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Renewable Energy

President Obama has called for the United States to secure 25% of our electricity from clean, renewable resources by 2025. And yet, renewable sources other than hydropower still provide only about 5% of the electricity supply for our grid. What’s holding us back? Our grid is partly to blame. The physical reality is that the wind, solar, and geothermal resources are usually located in remote places, while much of the power demand is in urban areas. Like the interstate highway System, we need an electric superhighway that provides infrastructure for electricity to get from North Dakota to New York City easily and efficiently. Geography issues aside, the current grid has difficulty accommodating variable sources of power like wind and solar energy, the fastest-growing sources of renewable power on the grid. As these resources begin to supply increasing percentages of power to the grid, integrating them into grid operations will become increasingly difficult. The Smart Grid will be able to make better use of these energy resources. It will give grid operators new tools to reduce power demand quickly when wind or solar power dips, and it will have more energy storage capabilities to absorb excess wind and solar power when it isn't needed, then to release that energy when the wind and solar power dips. In effect, energy storage will help to smooth out the variability in wind and solar resources, making them easier to use. Building an electric superhighway can also help solve the problem, as it will help to ship the power to where it is needed. Studies have shown that connecting wind resources from a diversity of geographic locations helps to balance out fluctuations in wind power. In other words, when the wind isn't blowing in Iowa, in may be blowing in North Dakota or Wyoming. Having such geographically diverse wind resources on a single electric superhighway will result in a more steady supply of wind power to the nation's power grid, making it easier for grid operators to make full use of this resource.

The Department of Energy's Office of Electricity (OE) recognizes that our nation's sustained economic prosperity, quality of life, and global competitiveness depends on an abundance of secure, reliable, and affordable energy resources. OE leads the Department of Energy's efforts to ensure a resilient, and flexible electricity system in the United States. Learn more about OE >>

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