Environment

Study shows how the US could achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2050

Study shows how the US could a...
A study points the way to a renewable energy reliant United States in just 35 years
A study points the way to a renewable energy reliant United States in just 35 years
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Washington state already draws some 70 percent of its current electricity from hydroelectric sources, and both Iowa and South Dakota use wind power for around 30 percent of their electricity needs
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Washington state already draws some 70 percent of its current electricity from hydroelectric sources, and both Iowa and South Dakota use wind power for around 30 percent of their electricity needs
A study points the way to a renewable energy reliant United States in just 35 years
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A study points the way to a renewable energy reliant United States in just 35 years

A team of researchers led by Stanford University's professor Mark Z. Jacobson has produced an ambitious roadmap for converting the energy infrastructure of the US to run entirely on renewable energy in just 35 years. The study focuses on the wide-scale implementation of existing technologies such as wind, solar and geothermal solutions, claiming that the transition is both economically and technically possible within the given timeframe.

As a starting point, the researchers looked at current energy demands on a state-by-state basis, before calculating how those demands are likely to evolve over the next three and a half decades. Splitting the energy use into residential, commercial, industrial and transportation categories, the team then calculated fuel demands if current generation methods – oil, gas, coal, nuclear and renewables – were replaced with electricity.

That already sounds like a mammoth task, but its true complexity comes to light when you consider that for the purposes of the study, absolutely everything has to run on electricity. That means everything from homes and factories to every vehicle on the road.

As it turns out, while the calculations might be complex, the results are extremely promising.

"When we did this across all 50 states, we saw a 39 percent reduction in total end-use power demand by the year 2050," said Jacobson. "About 6 percentage points of that is gained through efficiency improvements to infrastructure, but the bulk is the result of replacing current sources and uses of combustion energy with electricity."

In order for each state to make the transition, it would focus on the use of the most easily available renewable sources. For example, some states get a lot more sunlight than others, some have a greater number of south-facing rooftops, while coastal states can make use of offshore wind farms, and for others geothermal energy is a good option.

Washington state already draws some 70 percent of its current electricity from hydroelectric sources, and both Iowa and South Dakota use wind power for around 30 percent of their electricity needs
Washington state already draws some 70 percent of its current electricity from hydroelectric sources, and both Iowa and South Dakota use wind power for around 30 percent of their electricity needs

Interestingly, the plan doesn't involve the construction of new hydroelectric dams, but does call for improved efficiency of existing facilities. It would also only require a maximum of 0.5 percent of any one state's land to be covered in wind turbines or solar panels.

The team looked at all of the above before laying out a roadmap for each state to become 80 percent reliant on clean, renewable energy by 2030, with a full transition achieved by 2050.

Some states are more prepared to make the change than others. For example, Washington state already draws some 70 percent of its current electricity from hydroelectric sources, and both Iowa and South Dakota use wind power for around 30 percent of their electricity needs.

So what would all of this cost? Well, according to the research, the initial bill would be fairly hefty, but thanks to the sunlight and wind being free, things would level out in the long run, roughly equaling the cost of the current infrastructure.

"When you account for the health and climate costs – as well as the rising price of fossil fuels – wind, water and solar are half the cost of conventional systems," said Jacobson. "A conversion of this scale would also create jobs, stabilize fuel prices, reduce pollution-related health problems and eliminate emissions from the United States. There is very little downside to a conversion, at least based on this science."

Not only would it be economically viable to make the switch, but it would also have some significant knock-on health benefits, as approximately 63,000 people currently die from air pollution-related cases in the US every year.

The researchers published the results of their study in the journal Energy and Environmental Sciences. There's also an interactive map available, detailing how each state would make use of available renewables.

Source: Stanford University

26 comments
godscountry
I believe we could do it even sooner,Eventually every surface of every man made structure will generate electricity.Any thing that moves will be able to generate electricity.Your shoes,arm movements,swinging doors,windows,etc could generate electricity.Lets cut the cord on fossil fuel abuse.
Noel K Frothingham
Who's gonna pick up the tab, godscountry?
Lbrewer42
More pilitically correct waste of tax payer dollars. The AGW lie has been unveiled by the IPCCs own data compilation - and acknowledged as such by pro AGW websites claiming a 15 year hiatus has been found in AGW. Google "Game Over the IPCC quietly admits defeat." Also - better do some checking into thos wind turbines - all the installed ones that do not operate 24/7 are backed up with diesel generators to keep the the supply going. In effect they save nothing. More government payoffs is what they amount to. Dud DuPont ever finally find a lubricant for these turbines that would last without need for expensive, frequent replacing? Modern man - the media marionettes.
featherstone
In fact....it could have been an accepted policy of this country ( and success would have it spread globally, as many successes of the U.S. have done ) for 1/2 a century except for intrenched plutocrats blocking the way. The concept of limitless energy, and therefor virtually limitless wealth for all the inhabitants of the U.S. ( Earth ) , is anathema to the controlling elite. Even after this miraculous report and road map.....I fear it will never happen.
Astro Rosaire
When people say we need to go completely renewable, it makes me cringe for the people in China http://www.americanmanufacturing.org/blog/entry/the-true-cost-of-chinese-solar-panels-part-2 Wind has its own drawbacks, including killing many endangered birds of prey because the winds that make great power sources are the same winds that these fowl love cruise and hunt. Not to mention their life cycle is shorter than originally anticipated. https://www.masterresource.org/environmental-issues-windpower/violent-environmental-problems-with-wind-turbine-operation-from-avian-mortality-to-operational-failure/ Remember folks, every energy generation source will have its problems, the question to ask is how do we minimize our energy environmental footprint? There's been great success in nuclear fuel recycle. In fact, the volume of waste from an average family of four can fit in the palm of your hand. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xt3qSZCQAIs
Kevin Ritchey
Good luck with trying to get ANY of that even considered with the GOP being backed by huge corporate oil and gas constituents. We'll stay in the stone age until we cut their leashes and halt their lobbying. One of many reasons Obama's aims were thwarted, along with poor management and oversight. It doesn't even pay to be optimistic while they throw a wrench into every mechanism at advancement. In fond memory of Tesla!
Bruce H. Anderson
The plan for heavy transport will be interesting. Electrifying the railroads will be expensive, but feasable. Heavy trucks would run on hydrogen, and I assume that means either combustion engines or fuel cells. Gonna be pricey.
DrPepper59
Wow, only ".5% of any one states land" mass would be needed. What does that mean? Only .5% of say Rhoad Island or just over 6 square miles? or maybe Alaska at only 3,316.5 square miles. Or is it .5% of every state? Gee that's only 19,030 square miles. Doesn't seam very realistic to me at all. The country is moving to renewable power sourses, but let's not do it at a cripleing pace.
Douglas Bennett Rogers
This is asking for an enormous increase in infrastructure in a a climate of ever more increasing construction difficulty.
Gene Preston
Mark Jacobson has yet to model grid reliability. This means calculating the Loss of Load Probability each day. The sum of these daily LOLP's is the LOLE or loss of load expectation and the industry standard has been about 0.1 days per year, i.e. sum of LOLP probabilities about 0.1 for the year. I have successfully modeled the Texas system called ERCOT with 100% renewables with no fossil fuels burned and meeting the LOLE=0.1 requirement. Assuming the ERCOT system has a peak demand of 71119 MW, to achieve 100% wind and solar power will require 68 GW wind, 76 GW solar, and 50 GW storage with 14 days energy at full power. This displaces 69264 MW of fossil fuel capacity. Unfortunately that amount of storage would cost about 6600 billion dollars. We could use considerably less storage but the amount of natural gas burned rapidly rises. You can find more details of my analysis at http://egpreston.com/100percentrenewables.pdf .