State by State Plan for 100% RenewablesWednesday 10th June 2015
Some people feel one of the major ways to combat climate change is to focus on renewable energy, achieving 100% renewable energy supply - but achieving it is another thing.
This is the daunting challenge taken on my researchers at Stanford University. In a new study, Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford, along with colleagues have outlined how each of the 50 states in the U.S. can achieve a transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050.
Jacobson and his colleagues started by taking a close look at the current energy demands of each state, and how those demands would change under business-as-usual conditions by the year 2050. To create a full picture of energy use in each state, they examined energy usage in four sectors: residential, commercial, industrial and transportation.
They then analyzed the current amount and source of the fuel consumed – coal, oil, gas, nuclear, renewables – and calculated the fuel demands if all fuel usage were replaced with electricity, for each sector.
This is a big task – it assumes that all the cars on the road become electric, and that homes and industry convert to fully electrified heating and cooling systems. But Jacobson said that their calculations were based on integrating existing technology, and the energy savings would be significant.
The researchers also had to figure out how to power the new electric grid. The researchers focused on meeting each state's new power demands using only the renewable energies – wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, and tiny amounts of tidal and wave – available to each state.
They analyzed each state's sun exposure, and how many south-facing, non-shaded rooftops could accommodate solar panels. They developed and consulted wind maps and determined whether local offshore wind turbines were an option. Geothermal energy was available at a reasonable cost for only 13 states. The plan calls for virtually no new hydroelectric dams, but does account for energy gains from improving the efficiency of existing dams.
The report lays out individual roadmaps for each state to achieve an 80% transition by 2030, and a full conversion by 2050. Jacobson said that several states are already on their way, and could make the switch to full renewables relatively quickly
The plan calls for no more than 0.5 percent of any state's land to be covered in solar panels or wind turbines. The upfront cost of the changes would be significant, but wind and sunlight are free. So the overall cost spread over time would be roughly equal to the price of the fossil fuel infrastructure, maintenance and production.
Apart from clean energy, it would also provide clean air - Jacobson said that if the conversion is followed exactly as his plan outlines, the reduction of air pollution in the U.S. could prevent the deaths of approximately 63,000 Americans who die from air pollution-related causes each year. It would also eliminate U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases produced from fossil fuel, which would otherwise cost the world $3.3 trillion a year by 2050.
Interesting research - the figures are staggering, tremendous benefits would come from such a major switch to renewables. Surely someone should take note.
The study is published in the online edition of Energy and Environmental Sciences. An interactive map summarizing the plans for each state is available at www.thesolutionsproject.org.
Picture of SEGS solar complex in northern San Bernardino County, California, by USA.Gov - BLM - BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
Wednesday 10th June 2015