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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Urges Restraint in Hong Kong Protests

Protesters angered by Beijing's decision to only approve candidates that it sanctions for Hong Kong's leadership elections in 2017 More

Archive of Forgotten UCLA Speeches Offers Snapshot of History

Recordings of prominent voices in social change, politics, science and literature from 1960s, early 1970s now available on YouTube More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenyai
X
Gabe Joselow
September 29, 2014 6:20 PM
Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Video

Video Reconstruction? What Reconstruction? Life After War in Gaza

It’s been a month since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire to end 52 days of an air and tank war that left 60,000 homes in Gaza damaged or destroyed and 110,000 homeless. Sharon Behn reports that lack of reconstruction is leading to despair.
Video

Video US, Saudi Arabia and UAE Hit Islamic State's Oil Revenue

The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have bombed oil facilities operated by Islamic State militants in Syria. It was a truly collaborative effort, with the two Arab countries dropping the majority of the bombs. The 12 refineries targeted were estimated to generate as much as $2 million per day for the terrorist group. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb has the story.
Video

Video Russia's Food Sanctions Raise Price Worries, Hopes for Domestic Production

Russia retaliated against Western sanctions imposed for its actions in Ukraine by halting food imports from the West. The temporary import ban on food from Australia, the European Union, Norway and North America has Russian consumers concerned that they could face a sharp increase in food prices. But in an ironic twist, the restrictions aimed at the Kremlin have made Russia's domestic food producers hopeful this can boost their business. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid