a Feasibility Study for Transitioning Louisville, Kentucky’s Transportation and Electricity Generation to Renewable Sources
CitationDarst, Timothy. 2016. a Feasibility Study for Transitioning Louisville, Kentucky’s Transportation and Electricity Generation to Renewable Sources. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
AbstractClimate change is caused mainly by humans and there is a great risk of “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems” (IPCC, 2014). It has been proposed by many that America can address climate change by simply buying electric cars and then obtaining all electricity from renewable sources (Deutch, & Moniz, 2010; Freeman & Parks, 2016). This “silver bullet” is appealing; however, without detailed study it is not known whether this is a viable solution in many communities across the United States. Louisville, Kentucky was chosen as a case study to determine if it is feasible for conversion to a 100%-renewably-sourced electricity grid and all-electric transportation model. Louisville is in one of the largest coal producing states, is heavily dependent on coal for electricity production, and has a high per capita number of vehicle miles driven annually. In this study the amount of energy needed to power all of the city’s vehicles using electricity was measured, and the amount of electricity that the community would be able to produce from renewable energy sources was estimated.
The results indicate that while still monumental in cost and scope, it is possible to convert Louisville’s electricity grid to 100% renewable energy while replacing all of its vehicles with electric vehicles by 2050. To reduce the cost and magnitude of this conversion, conservation and efficiency measures are needed that result in a 26.5% decrease in electricity and a 15.6% reduction in transportation by 2050. Hydroelectricity, wind energy, electricity produced from biomass, and energy storage can meet nighttime base load demand and provide the dispatchability needed for grid stability. After conservation and efficiency and producing energy from other renewable sources, this conversion would require more than 48 million solar panels, enough to cover 36.5 square miles or 9.1% of the city. A transformation of this magnitude will require a large commitment from the community and full participation of the governmental, business, and non-profit sectors.
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