grid

Net generation by renewable sources across all sectors. Two fastest growing are wind (orange line) and solar (green line)
U.S. Energy Information Administration

Multiple proposals from Democratic presidential candidates are calling for a full transition from fossil fuels to renewables over the next 10 years. Independent analytics firm Wood Mackenzie was interested in the numbers behind those proposals. It found a transition would take closer to 20 to 30 years. Dan Shreve, head of global wind energy research at Wood Mackenzie, co-authored the report.

Will Stone / KJZZ

  

Julie and Jim Powell’s air conditioner has been fending off the summertime heat since they bought their traditional Sun City home two decades ago.

“It’s been a workhorse. It’s probably twenty years old, but it does the job,” Julie Powell said, peering at the noisy unit from the shade of her back porch. It’s only midmorning, but her graveled backyard is already too hot to venture across.

Stephanie Joyce

Congress hasn’t passed an energy bill since 2007, but a bill is winding its way through Congress that has the chance of becoming law.

Earlier this year a bipartisan coalition sent Keystone XL Pipeline legislation to President Obama’s desk only to have it vetoed and the President has continued his battle against climate change. But some are still hopeful that a bipartisan energy bill could still pass. Wyoming Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis said that she believes targeted legislation might become law and that’s what a bipartisan group has come up with. 

NASA

If you’ve ever seen the Northern Lights, you’ve seen the most visible evidence of a solar storm. Bursts of electrically charged particles race towards Earth, and when they hit the Earth’s magnetic field, they cause beautiful auroras like the ones seen as far south as Colorado last month.

The aging United States electricity grid is facing an increasing number of threats, ranging from severe weather events, to solar flares, to cyber terrorism.

Inside Energy research found that major power outages have doubled every five years since 2000. It’s something the U.S. military is taking seriously. They're helping to lead the way in the development of smaller and more secure grids – known as microgrids.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

For Jim and Lyn Schneider, the decision to invest in $50,000 worth of solar panels and battery storage was easy. There were no power lines near their property. After buying land in a remote area near Alcova, Wyoming, their utility company estimated it would cost the couple around $80,000 to get electricity in their new home.

"It's like wow, we’re gonna have to be really primitive! We're gonna be cooking on a campfire! We're gonna have to really like each other," Lyn Schneider said between bursts of laughter.

Shane Reetz / Prairie Public Broadcasting

Across the nation -- and even in Wyoming -- power companies are adding more renewable energy to their systems. That creates new challenges for the electric grid… challenges that this country is just beginning to grapple with. In Denmark, the transition is happening more quickly - by 2030 the country’s power system is supposed to be 100 percent renewable. So already, industry and universities have been trying out potential solutions in the real world -- on a test island in the middle of the Baltic Sea. 

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

Part 4 of an Inside Energy series Blackout: Reinventing The Grid

The Environmental Protection Agency is putting the finishing touches on its Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon emissions, but warnings against it are getting louder.

Many who deal in the energy sector- grid operators, lawmakers, and especially the coal industry- are piling on to the idea that transitioning away from coal to renewables and natural gas will destabilize our power grid.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Media

The grid control room at Østkraft, on the Danish island of Bornholm, is a mix of old and new. On one side of the room, huge computer monitors detail the flow of electricity throughout the system. On the other, printed circuit diagrams hang on 60s-era control boards with dancing needles. Lounging at a desk in a grey jumpsuit and thick eyeglasses, engineer Erik Malmkvist jams to early 90s dance music, while explaining that his job is to do as little as possible.

“When I shall do anything, it costs us money," he says. "So, I do as little as possible.”

Bill Stevenson / Creative Commons

Part 1 in our Inside Energy series Blackout: Reinventing The Grid.

It was a blustery, cold January day in 1998 when the rain turned to ice. I was nine years old at the time, living in a town called Canton in upstate New York, near the Canadian border. The storm started early, but didn’t get serious until well after dark.

“I remember waking up in the night and hearing explosions outside,” my mom, Lynn Shepherd, recalled recently. “When the top of a tree comes off and it just splinters, the snapping is really an explosion. It’s like a gunshot.”  

Dan Boyce

Part 2 of an Inside Energy series Blackout: Reinventing The Grid

Bill LeBlanc hits the streets with a video camera every year to chat energy with average Americans, in different cities around the country, starting with the basics like “what exactly is electricity?”

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Media

Part 3 of an Inside Energy series Blackout: Reinventing The Grid

On an overcast Florida afternoon five years ago, standing in front of a vast array of solar panels, President Obama pledged to modernize the nation’s power grid. He compared its current state to the road system before interstate highways. “It was a tangled maze of poorly maintained back roads that were rarely the fastest or the most efficient way to get from point A to point B,” he said.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

Energy storage will be a key part of the grid of the future, according to industry experts speaking at this month’s Wyoming Infrastructure Authority conference. Currently, power generation and consumption are balanced in real-time, but storage would allow power generated now to be consumed later.

“You know, I can envision a day when right next to your hot water heater you have a battery," said Mark Lauby, vice president of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, the agency that oversees the power grid. "You store it up during the day and use it at night.”