We have all the technology right now that we need to power the U.S. state by state and the world with solar, wind, and water power. No burning coal or oil or fracked natural gas and no nukes. No need for any new destructive and hazardous methane pipelines. No waiting for batteries. All we have to do is get on with it.
Stanford University researchers led by civil engineer Mark Jacobson have developed detailed plans for each state in the union that to move to 100 percent wind, water and solar power by 2050 using only technology that’s already available. The plan, presented recently at the AAAS conference in Chicago, also forms the basis for The Solutions Project nonprofit.
“The conclusion is that it’s technically and economically feasible,” Jacobson told Singularity Hub.
The plan doesn’t rely, like many others, on dramatic energy efficiency regimes. Nor does it include biofuels or nuclear power, whose green credentials are the source of much debate.
The proposal is straightforward: eliminate combustion as a source of energy, because it’s dirty and inefficient. All vehicles would be powered by electric batteries or by hydrogen, where the hydrogen is produced through electrolysis rather than natural gas. High-temperature industrial processes would also use electricity or hydrogen combustion.
The rest would simply be a question of allowing existing fossil-fuel plants to age out and using renewable sources to power any new plants that come online….
“The greatest barriers to a conversion are neither technical nor economic. They are social and political,” the AAAS paper concludes.
For Georgia, that’s 40% solar PV plants, 35% offshore wind, 13% rooftop PV (6% residential and 7% commercial), 5% concentrating solar plants, 5% onshore wind, and 1% each wind, tide, and conventional hydro power. Plus 210,200 construction jobs and 101,000 operation jobs. And saving $14.3 billion per year or 4% of Georgia’s GDP saved by avoiding illness and mortality, including avoiding 1,580 air pollution deaths each year. Oh, and costs per kilowatt-hour would drop by more than half.
There’s that offshore wind for a third of Georgia’s power again.
We also get massive savings through not wasting energy by burning stuff and generating more power right where it’s needed: 40% savings for Georgia, 43% savings for Florida, and 35% savings for Alabama,
Such huge savings are possible because more than half of U.S. energy production is wasted, and the biggest wastes are due to burning oil and coal and due to electricty transmission and distribution, as shown in this chart for 2011 by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory:
How can we get rid of burning oil when all those cars and trucks burn gasoline and and diesel? Electric cars and trucks. Tesla’s Model S is already the best-selling car in its class in the U.S. That part will indeed take a while, because of the existing rolling stock. And U.S. oil production actually rose 15% last year. But it will happen, as prices of hybrid and electric cars come down due to economies of scale. The Toyota Prius for another year is the best-selling car in California. This change will come.
Electricity generation is easier and quicker to address. We’ve already seen ten nuclear reactors shut down (5) or canceled (5) in the past year or so. Warren Buffett has moved from nuclear to wind. The nuclear renaissance is dead, despite Southern Company and Georgia Power still raking in the rate-hike bucks on that boondoggle at Plant Vogtle.
Georgia Power agreed last summer to shut down a dozen coal plants. The carbon bubble is going to pop. All new U.S. energy was solar in October 2013 and 2013 was another record year for solar installation and accelleration of installation. We’re well on course for former FERC chair Jon Wellinghof’s prediction that solar will overtake every other U.S. energy source within a decade.
Jacobson’s plan of reducing distribution costs and eliminating fossil fuel burning is the opposite of what Spectra, NextEra (FPL), and Williams want to do by gouging a hundred-foot-wide right of way for a 36-inch pipeline through here to burn more methane fracked in Pennsylvania and Texas.
Most people believe in clean energy and their pocketbooks…. Everything will be OK if we collectively put our minds to it. There’s no technological or economic limitations to solving these problems. It’s a social and political issue primarily.
The Sunshine State doesn’t need to mainline more fracked methane. Solar, wind, and water are not just the wave of the future: they can power our states, and we can start right now.