Could This Be the Solution to Reaching 100% Renewable Energy?

[Music] this video is sponsored by curiosity stream which now comes with nebula for free when you sign up using the link in the description [Music] tucked into a narrow valley straddling the border of virginia and west virginia lie two bodies of water reservoirs carved from the earth of the allegheny mountains one lies uphill of the other and a stream of water flows between the two but if you look closely that water seems to be defying gravity instead of running downhill it's going up it the lower reservoir is feeding the upper one and these two lakes and the water flowing between them might just be a solution to a zero carbon world this is a story about how renewables work what they offer for a fossil fuel free future and how two bodies of water nestled in the allegheny valley of virginia could make that future a reality on april 1st 2020 documentary filmmaker jeff gibbs released his movie planet of humans on youtube the premise of the film was simple renewable energy wasn't working and wouldn't save us from climate change throughout the film gibbs details the failings of the renewable industry and comes to a conclusion that teeter is on the edge of a dangerous precipice if renewables won't save us then population growth must be curtailed a human-caused apocalypse if we get ourselves under control all things are possible this vein of environmentalist thinking has historically been used to excuse eugenicist and violent population control measures but that is a topic for a whole different video and many of the points in planet of humans have been refuted or are just simply outdated but gibbs's arguments epitomize a worrying trend of quote-unquote renewable bashing a trend that rejects these young wind and solar industries wholesale without offering feasible solutions to replace them that being said renewables like solar and wind definitely do have problems but these technologies are not hopeless like gibbs seems to think so let's briefly look at the obstacles renewables face in order to understand how to best navigate a path towards 100 clean energy by 2050 when it comes to wind turbines a common takedown especially among right-leaning politicians is that they kill birds you want to see a burv graveyard you just go take a look a bird graveyard go under a windmill someday unfortunately this is true in north america wind turbines kill between 140 to 500 000 birds a year but if you zoom out and look at the whole picture that number looks a little different both a 2009 and a 2012 study revealed that fossil fuel plants caused 9.7 bird deaths per gigawatt hour produced while turbines caused only 0.27 deaths per gigawatt hour produced oh and cats kill roughly 10 000 times the amount of birds that turbines do so when contextualized bird deaths caused by wind turbines are comparably small the life cycle impacts of both solar panels and wind turbines are yet another point of attack for those looking to discredit renewables these technologies require resources to assemble install and eventually dismantle so some including jeff gibbs argue that renewables are not as clean as we think they are but according to one 2017 paper that compared the emissions from the life cycle of a variety of energy sources solar and wind consistently produced some of the lowest impacts compared to coal or natural gas this research reinforced an earlier widely cited 2013 study that found similar results in short despite the amount of concrete and raw materials required to construct wind and solar arrays they can quickly pay off that initial carbon debt and these technologies are comparably young so as renewables continue to be honed these installations will last longer and longer making waste less of a problem one of the largest problems facing renewables however is that they create too much energy or rather they generate too much energy when we don't need it wind and solar are variable in their outputs and produce energy when the sun shines the strongest or when the wind is blowing the hardest which often doesn't match up with the times we need it this mismatch means that when energy demand is low but production is high the grid must curtail or get rid of some of its excess energy supply or risk over-taxing the grid this curtailment is happening in real time in california which dramatically increased its solar capacity in the last decade but is yet to build energy infrastructure to support it as a result the state had to curtail over 318 000 megawatt hours worth of electricity production in april of this year and as more solar and wind plants come online that number seems to be only growing in short california shows us that to successfully scale up renewables we must also have enough capacity to use the energy these technologies produce which brings us to storage back in the allegheny mountains water is still running uphill because after all this is a pumped hydro storage plant an age-old solution to a modern problem the bath county pumped hydro facility is one of the biggest batteries in the world with the capacity to store over 3003 megawatts of energy for comparison the capacity of the largest lithium-ion battery storage facility in the u.s is currently 62.5 megawatts the facility achieves this massive energy storage through a simple method when there's excess energy in the grid instead of curtailing it the facility uses this energy to pump water from the lower reservoir into the upper one and then when there's high electricity demand they let the water run downhill through turbines into the lower basin like a conventional dam fulfilling that demand a shockingly straightforward solution to the problem of energy storage and if done right it can stabilize the variability of renewables so that electricity is readily available whenever we need it there are some drawbacks however it requires a large amount of water for one and it also requires mountainous terrain but the concept of pumped hydro is being tinkered with to create alternative methods that don't require open basins or mountains one proposal envisions a large cylindrical rock set in earth that gets pushed up with excess water when energy production is high and then through the force of gravity pushes that water back down through a turbine when electricity is needed but really pumped hydro storage is just one solution of many that needs to be expanded if we are to successfully achieve 100 renewable output by 2050.

Interconnectors are yet another piece of the successful clean energy puzzle in simple terms interconnectors combine separate grid systems which allows states or even whole countries to trade off excess energy so when storage is limited and demand is high the local grid doesn't need to curtail or waste energy it can instead transport that energy to a place where electricity is needed or can be stored for later use these are the types of solutions we need if we were to quickly transform our electricity from fossil fuels to renewables technologies that are already available ready to deploy and offer tangible solutions to the problems that renewables face the future of renewables will not be without hiccups but according to the stanford solutions project a 100 renewable energy system is feasible by 2050. so the biggest problem then is not technological barriers but instead finding the political will to do the needed work and the european union is showing that initiative they've begun to trailblaze a path towards net zero carbon by 2050.

By 2030 they will reach an average of 33 percent of their energy sourced from renewables with countries like denmark finland and austria well ahead of that amount and crucially the eu has and is expanding the interconnectedness of their grit so when the sun is shining in the south of spain excess energy can be traded to denmark when the wind isn't blowing through their turbines but at the end of the day renewables can only get us so far recognizing and transforming the way we in the west consume energy is also an essential part of mitigating climate change if we continue with business as usual will need to transform a lot more the average u.s citizen consumes 10 times more energy per year than the average indian citizen four to five times that of someone from brazil and three times that of someone from china on top of that the wealthiest 10 of the world consumed 20 times more than the poorest 10 so if through policy and behavior change the amount of energy that countries in north america and europe uses decreases then the challenge of scaling renewables to meet energy demand will no longer be as daunting creating videos on youtube can be hard especially if you're like me and are diving into politically charged issues like the green new deal and eco-feminism the unfortunate truth is that those videos are at the whim of the algorithm and are much more likely to do poorly or even get demonetized which is why a bunch of creator friends and i teamed up to create a platform where we can make content without having to worry about pleasing the dreaded algorithm it's called nebula and we're thrilled to be partnering with curiosity stream nebula is a video streaming platform that allows creators to well create with exclusive content from a wide range of educational youtubers like lindsay ellis tom scott and t1j nebula is the perfect place to consume ad-free educational content i personally procrastinated making this video by watching tom scott's game show money the mental trickery in that show is just so good and entertaining but what does this have to do with curiosity stream well as the go-to streaming platform for thousands of top tier documentaries curiosity stream loves supporting educational creators so we worked out a deal where if you sign up with the link below not only do you get access to curiosity stream but you'll also get nebula for free and it's not a trial you'll have it as long as you're a curiosity stream member and for a limited time curiosity stream is offering 26 off their annual plan that's 14.79 per year for both curiosity stream and nebula and since you have to stay inside you might as well watch some world-class documentaries on climate change or listen to david attenborough's soothing voice or just watch tom scott torture your favorite youtubers on nebula so if you want to support both our changing climate and educational content as a whole go to occ or click the link in the description and sign up for curiosity stream and nebula for just 14.79 per year hey everyone charlie here thanks so much for watching all the way to the end there are two quick things that you can do if you want to support this channel share this video on reddit facebook or twitter and consider supporting me financially on patreon even a dollar a month helps this channel thrive again thanks for watching and i'll see you in two weeks

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