wind power

Do You Know…About Green Power?

By Mollie Lemon

You probably know that carbon pollution is the biggest driver of climate change. But, did you know that one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions come from power plants? Power plants generate electricity for our homes, businesses, and workplaces. Did you know that green power, sourced from renewable resources including the sun and wind, produces electricity with little or no fossil-fuel based greenhouse gas emissions? And, did you know that green power is available to every single business, institution, and residential electricity consumer in the U.S.?

I’ve been working for EPA’s Green Power Partnership program since 2011, and buy green power for my own electricity use at home. I have many reasons for using green power – because I’m concerned about extreme weather events that are exacerbated by climate change, because I want my young cousins to be able to play outside in the summer, and because some of my favorite places I’ve visited in my travels over the years are under serious threat from climate change. Working at the EPA has shown me that changing the source of my electricity is one of the easiest and most impactful things I can do in the face of such threats.

The more than 1,500 organizations that participate in our Green Power Partnership also know about the benefits of using green power. Today, our Green Power Partners are collectively using more than 29 billion kilowatt-hours of green power every year. That’s equal to avoiding the annual carbon pollution from the electricity use of more than three million average American homes.

I continue to be impressed by the commitment of our partners to using green power, which helps keep our air clean and healthy. We recently released the first quarterly update of our Top Partner Rankings for 2014, which highlights the annual green power use of leading partners nationwide. Close to two-thirds of these organizations are using 100 percent green power, and nearly half are small businesses. And, every single one of them is helping to grow the market for clean energy resources in the U.S. and contributing to a healthier environment for all of us – including my cousins.

Check out our partner list to see if your local government, school, or favorite retailer is a Green Power Partner. If not, let them know how to become a partner and join us in taking action on climate change.

About the author:  Mollie Lemon joined EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation in Washington, DC in 2009, and is the communications director for the Green Power Partnership. She enjoys hiking, especially in the cool, clean mountain air of the nearby Shenandoah range.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Science Wednesday: Better Together: Wind and Solar Power in California

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

About the author: Matthias Fripp is a doctoral student in the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California, Berkeley. His work is funded by an EPA Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Graduate Research Fellowship.

Before I started my studies, I thought that graduate students were free to study any topic they liked. That’s true in principle, but in practice we need to find funding for our research. Fortunately, I was granted an EPA STAR fellowship in 2006, allowing me to pursue a question I consider particularly important: how much wind and solar power should we use in the electricity system in upcoming decades?

Over the last couple of years, I’ve gathered data on the amount of power that could be produced every hour at potential wind farm sites and solar power facilities all over California. I’ve also collected information on existing power plants and transmission lines, and forecasted the cost of building new wind, solar or conventional power plants or transmission lines in the future.

Next, I built a computer model that determines which combination of new and existing power plants and transmission lines will give the least expensive electricity between 2010 and 2025, while also ensuring that the state has enough power every hour. I also use this model to see how much our power bills might change if we work seriously on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

wind farm turbines on hillThe results of this research are exciting. I found that wind and solar power are available at complementary times in California, so we can use them together to make a more reliable (and cheaper) power system than we could if we just used wind or solar alone. I also found that even if we didn’t care about greenhouse gas emissions, we should still plan to use a lot of wind power, because it is beginning to be less expensive than power from natural gas plants. Finally, I found that there is no sharp limit to the amount of renewable power we could use in California: power bills rise slowly as we build more and more renewables, but emissions could be reduced substantially with little or no extra cost.

The EPA STAR fellowship has made a huge difference, freeing me to focus all my efforts on this work, and providing the resources to do it right.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.