Green Energy Can Be Cheaper, More Resilient

Feb 16, 2021

Under the state’s Clean Economy Act, Virginia is committed to adding more solar and wind power to the grid.  Lawmakers cited concerns about climate change in casting their votes, but a new study from UVA shows another reason to go green.  It’s cheaper and more reliable. 

Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico's electric grid.  Experts say the island would be better off with green, decentralized power.
Credit Andres Clarens

When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017, it knocked out power for months according to Andres Clarens, a professor of engineering systems and environment at the University of Virginia.

“It was a very, very strong storm, and there were some key transmission lines for the power grid that cross the mountains," he explains. "Rescue crews were not able to get in and restore power, so the result was that the blackout in Puerto Rico was the worst in U.S. history in terms of days and people with no power.”

Knowing the island was likely to see more hurricanes in the age of climate change, Clarens and his colleagues created a model that included the costs of repair in calculating future prices for energy and concluded a decentralized system of wind and solar would provide cheaper electricity and more reliable service.

“Moving to more distributed infrastructure naturally increases the resilience of the grid – moving to more distributed solar and wind that can be closer to where it’s being consumed,” Clarens says.

He believes the same would be true for states like Virginia that are subject to hurricanes, flooding and other natural disasters that are expected to occur more frequently in the years to come.