This letter is in response to a previous editorial regarding renewable energy being advantageous for the U.S.
As your recent editorial argues, the increasing decentralization of U.S. electric power generation arising from deployment of renewable energy improves system resiliency against deliberate attacks on our national power grid.
It also better protects against natural disasters and accidents. However, sole reliance on intermittent solar and wind energy to keep the lights on also imperils our power supply.
To take up the slack when the sun sets or the wind stops blowing, the nation also needs to develop large-scale electric energy storage, which appears to be many decades away, or dispatchable renewable power — a more immediate solution employing storable renewable energy that can be switched on at a moment’s notice.
The Bioeconomy Institute at ISU is developing a liquid fuel from the pyrolysis of crop residues and wood wastes that can be burned in the kind of stationary diesel engines located in many Iowa municipalities for emergency power, although they are currently fired with fossil fuels. This “py diesel” even has potential of generating “carbon negative” electricity, thus removing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it emits, something that solar and wind energy cannot accomplish.
The 2014 report of the International Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) notes that reducing emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere alone is not enough to meet targets for limiting global temperature rise. Its call for carbon removal strategies has encouraged researchers at the Bioeconomy Institute to explore how agriculture and engineering can join forces to grow and process biomass in ways that achieve carbon negative energy.
More information can be found at: https://www.biorenew.iastate.edu/%20research/carbonremoval/.