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

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs