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

Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

At Boston Bombing Hearing, Sides Spar Over Boat

At final pre-trial hearing, lawyers for suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, prosecutors disagree on whether vessel where he hid from police can be shown to jurors More

Iran Judiciary 'Picks' Lawyer for Detained WP Reporter

Masoud Shafii has been attempting to secure official recognition as Rezaian’s attorney, but is not allowed to see his client in prison More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More