UCLA MAE Associate Professor Richard Wirz, Director of the UCLA Energy Innovation Lab, was interviewed on NPR 89.3 KPCC’s show “Take Two” on how California’s sustainable future begins with renewable energy. The audio interview, posted here on September 9, 2016, also featured Mark Gold, UCLA Associate Vice Chancellor for Environment and Sustainability.
What role could wind energy play in California’s energy future?
Richard Wirz: “Wind is a part of it and actually, we have a lot of wind energy resources on land and those are the easier resources to get to because we can easily build wind turbines on land and it turns out that modern wind turbines provide some of the lowest cost energy available, sometimes even lower than the cost of coal, which is our lowest-cost energy, without the deficit of dealing with the pollution. The problem is that we need more of it and we have the prospect of building off-shore wind turbines, which provide us with a lot more predictable and consistent wind energy. …The wind is not always blowing when you need the energy. We could do considerably more energy from off-shore [wind farms]. …The challenge with California, unfortunately the ocean is deeper and where we would try to get those wind resources, it’s going to be quite a bit more, so we would have to commit to building giant oil rig-like platforms where we would put wind turbines on those platforms.”
What obstacles are in the way of California shifting to more renewable energy?
Richard Wirz: “We need to store that energy, because unlike a fossil fuel facility where we actually can change the output based on the needs of the consumers, we don’t have that luxury with that wind or with the sun. Wind has that inherent challenge of variability, that’s why we need to work on storage technologies. That kind of transitions us to how do we get to the levels of penetration of renewable energy that Governor Brown wants to see, and the way to do that is we need to look at wind and solar [because] it’s actually more predictable—we pretty much can tell you when the sun is going to shine… The bill doesn’t get bigger because we actually have copious solar resources here in California and those are very cost-effective. We really just need to implement these technologies…it’s not so much we need to develop new technologies.
Please click here to listen to the full interview.