Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Plan to Power 100 Percent of the Planet with Renewables

Wind, water and solar technologies can provide 100 percent of the world's energy, eliminating all fossil fuels. Here's how

Image: John Lee Aurora Photos

In Brief

  • Supplies of wind and solar energy on accessible land dwarf the energy consumed by people around the globe.
  • The authors’ plan calls for 3.8 million large wind turbines, 90,000 solar plants, and numerous geothermal, tidal and rooftop photovoltaic installations worldwide.
  • The cost of generating and transmitting power would be less than the projected cost per kilowatt-hour for fossil-fuel and nuclear power.
  • Shortages of a few specialty materials, along with lack of political will, loom as the greatest obstacles.
In December leaders from around the world will meet in Copenhagen to try to agree on cutting back greenhouse gas emissions for decades to come. The most effective step to implement that goal would be a massive shift away from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy sources. If leaders can have confidence that such a transformation is possible, they might commit to an historic agreement. We think they can.Julian W. - Gwangju 2 months ago
It's great to finally hear in a North American accent someone saying what the late great Hermann Scheer was saying all his good short life: the solar and other renewable energy revolution is entirely possible in an extremely short time - as in a couple of years, and using EXISTING technology - and all it takes is political will.
Given the ignorance of the average English-only speaking, media illiterate western consumer/ voter, it's obviously taking a little longer outside Europe. It'll happen.
A year ago former vice president Al Gore threw down a gauntlet: to repower America with 100 percent carbon-free electricity within 10 years. As the two of us started to evaluate the feasibility of such a change, we took on an even larger challenge: to determine how 100 percent of the world’s energy, for all purposes, could be supplied by wind, water and solar resources, by as early as 2030. Our plan is presented here.
Scientists have been building to this moment for at least a decade, analyzing various pieces of the challenge. Most recently, a 2009 Stanford University study ranked energy systems according to their impacts on global warming, pollution, water supply, land use, wildlife and other concerns. The very best options were wind, solar, geothermal, tidal and hydroelectric power—all of which are driven by wind, water or sunlight (referred to as WWS). Nuclear power, coal with carbon capture, and ethanol were all poorer options, as were oil and natural gas. The study also found that battery-electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles recharged by WWS options would largely eliminate pollution from the transportation sector.

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