News / USA

Plan Calls for Renewable Energy to Power NY State and More

FILE - Wind turbines from the Maple Ridge Wind Farm, New York state's largest, in Martinsburg, Aug. 4, 2008.
FILE - Wind turbines from the Maple Ridge Wind Farm, New York state's largest, in Martinsburg, Aug. 4, 2008.
Carolyn Weaver
As worry grows over climate damage caused by carbon-based fuels like gas, oil and coal, some environmental engineering experts, such as Stanford University’s Mark Z. Jacobson, are offering new plans for energy independence via renewable power sources.

Jacobson became the rare engineering professor to appear on a network TV talk show when he was a guest on the Late Show with David Letterman on CBS in October. He was there to discuss his studies finding that wind, water and solar energy could rapidly replace all but a tiny fraction of fossil fuels, both in the U.S. and worldwide, and in a relatively short two or three decades.

“The technologies we’re focusing on are the cleanest, and therefore the most sustainable, in terms of improving human health, reducing climate impacts, reducing water supply impacts, but also providing energy-price stability,” Jacobson said in an interview. “The fuels we’re looking at, like wind and sunlight, have zero cost, and as a result, the only costs really are the installation costs.”

In their latest report, published in the journal Energy Policy, Jacobson and co-authors at Cornell University and the University of California, Davis, map out how New York State could transition to wind, water and solar power by 2030. They calculate there would be enough energy left over to power every vehicle in the state as well, and that 4,000 fewer people would die each year from disease caused by air pollution in New York State.

The plan calls for producing electricity with thousands of new wind turbines, most of them offshore in the Atlantic Ocean, in addition to solar and photo-voltaic power plants, rooftop systems on 5.5 million buildings, geothermal plants, devices for capturing tidal and ocean wave power, and additional hydroelectric plants. All together, 1 percent of New York's land would be used.

“The electricity would be used directly, but also used to produce some hydrogen, so instead of having vehicles run on gas or diesel, they would be electric vehicles or some hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles,” Jacobson said. “Instead of having heating by natural gas or oil, we’d have air-source and ground-source heat pumps, and the same thing for water heating. Also, industrial processes would be run by electricity and some hydrogen, and this would eliminate all the emissions associated with fossil fuels.”

Jacobson earlier issued a detailed transition plan for California, and plans to produce similar analyses for all the states. They follow his 2009 proposal for a worldwide conversion, A Plan to Power 100 Percent of the Planet With Renewables, published with co-author Mark A. Delucchi in Scientific American and Energy Policy.  

“That was a nice theoretical study,” he said, “but for the whole world and the whole U.S., trying to do a conversion on those scales is not so tractable, and that’s why we started going into the state scale.”

Columbia University’s Vasilis Fthenakis, a senior research scientist in the department of Earth and Environmental Engineering, published a similar plan for the U.S. in Scientific American in January 2013. His study emphasizes building solar and photo-voltaic power plants in the sunniest parts of the U.S., and using new high voltage direct current lines to transmit power long distances.

Overall, Fthenakis said, Jacobson’s is a good “aspirational” plan, and in New York State, he said, it made sense to focus on wind energy.

“We don’t have a fundamental difference in what he proposes,” he said, but added that massive offshore wind technology has not yet been tested over the long-term. Such a plan likely also would face public resistance from beachside communities, he noted, and the initial costs would be high.

Jacobson, however, believes the obstacles lie mainly in vested political interests.

“There are a lot of industries that look unfavorably upon this plan, because they don’t benefit from it,” he said. “We’re excluding fossil energy, so gas, coal and oil, but we’re also excluding nuclear power and biofuels, even technologies such as coal with carbon capture, because they’re not as good as what we’re looking at.”

Nuclear energy is excluded, Jacobson said, because of the growing energy costs in mining and refining uranium, a non-renewable resource, and the risk it could add to nuclear weapons proliferation.

“Plus, one-and-a-half-percent of all nuclear reactors ever built have melted down to some degree, and this results in risk for another type of disaster, which you don’t have with wind or solar power,” he added.

You May Like

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs