Rising temperatures intensify the need for solar, wind energy

18 July 2023

This past 4th of July was likely the hottest day on earth in the past 125,000 years according to the U.S. National Centers for Environmental Prediction.

The fact is, climate change is not an issue that will affect distant generations, it is affecting us now with more frequent and more severe weather events, invasive species migrating north, hundreds of wildfires each year and of course hotter temperatures in the summer and fewer cold days in the winter. Climate scientists estimate we are on track to blow past the 1.5 degree increase in average temperature sooner than estimated, possibly within this decade. What to do?

Minnesota has already made a good start in reducing carbon producing electricity thanks to former Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s 2006 25×2025 Renewable Electricity plan. Utilities surpassed that goal with ease.

More recently, thanks to President Biden and Congress providing substantial funding for climate mitigation, and the Minnesota Legislature this year making historic investments in renewable energy and mandating 100% non-carbon polluting energy by 2040. This is a goal we can and must achieve and surpass.

Within the next five years, supply chains should be organized to provide essential minerals for the manufacture of electric vehicles at scale. As this happens, we need to be able to provide more green electricity to reduce the greenhouse gas cars produce. The U.S. would need to produce 20%-50% more electricity annually if all cars were electric vehicles. So, we need to replace the remaining coal and gas electric generation and add 50% more capacity. Add home heat pumps and other electric appliances and we’re looking at even more renewable energy needed.

We need to have a solar power everywhere policy. The most cost-effective locations are on buildings and warehouses where mounting infrastructure requirements are cheapest, and we need to think bigger by building solar over parking lots and ramps, and perhaps over highways. One of the arguments against grid scale solar is that it’s built far from population centers and most of the time on productive farmland. That’s why we need to be innovative and build solar infrastructure where most electricity is used, in urban and suburban areas.

Minnesota has capacity for more wind energy too, we need to build more wind turbines wherever the wind blows consistently, and the power lines needed to bring that electricity to where people live and the energy is used.

In Hopkins, Minnesota, where I live, there is an effort to build solar on a disused landfill and on parking areas. Both locations will require extra mounting hardware, steel to create a solar canopy over parking areas and innovative design to mount solar over a capped landfill where methane is already being harvested.

While we’ve made progress in renewable energy in Minnesota and the country, it is important we build the infrastructure needed to eliminate carbon in generating electricity, the electricity we use now and the demand we will have in the future. We just need to do more, and get it done faster if we want to reduce the effects of an ever-warming planet for our grandchildren, our children and us.

Gary DeVaan is a resident of Hopkins, Minnesota.

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