Columbia International Affairs Online: Policy Briefs

CIAO DATE: 10/2013

Making Large-Scale Wind and Solar Power a Reality

Kevin Ummel

September 2013

Center for Global Development


South Africa and many other countries hope to aggressively expand wind and solar power (WSP) in the coming decades. This presents significant challenges for power system planning. Success hinges largely on the question of how and where to deploy WSP technologies. Well-designed deployment strategies can take advantage of natural variability in resources across space and time to help minimize costs, maximize benefits, and ensure reliability. New CGD research shows that low-cost open-source data and software can help navigate this challenge. Results for South Africa suggest that optimizing the deployment of WSP technologies can significantly reduce the cost of greenhouse gas abatement compared to more conventional planning approaches. Advanced modeling techniques could save South Africa an estimated $100 million per year (present value) by 2040. This approach could be translated to other contexts to help guide long-term infrastructure planning as countries prepare to scale up WSP.