Cost savings from adding wind and solar power to the U.S. electricity grid outweigh expenses related to switching fossil-fueled power plants on and off to compensate for the intermittent nature of renewable energy, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Incorporating “high levels” of wind and solar power in the U.S. West would save as much as $7 billion in annual costs from purchasing fuel, compared with $35 million to $157 million in expenses from cycling coal and natural gas plants, the Golden, Colorado-based research arm of the U.S. Energy Department said in a statement today.
“Avoided fuel costs are far greater than the increased cycling costs for fossil-fueled plants,” researcher Debra Lew, who led the study, said in the statement.
The study evaluated scenarios incorporating as much as one-third of the grid’s total electricity from wind and solar plants. Every four megawatt-hours of renewable power displaced about one megawatt-hour of coal power and three megawatt-hours from gas, according to the study.