Here’s a thought experiment: picture New York State powered entirely by green energy. Solar-powered LEDs flashing in Times Square, silent bumper-to-bumper electric trucks on the Long Island Expressway, even electric barges floating down the Hudson. It’s possible, faster than you think.
A report lays out the nuts and bolts of converting New York State’s energy infrastructure entirely to wind, water (hydro, tidal, and wave), and sunlight power. The plan would save $32 billion a year, say authors, by preventing 4,000 annual deaths due to air pollution. That in itself would pay for the $600 billion price tag within 17 years—when savings from fuel costs are factored in, the payoff would be even faster.
The biggest chunk of energy in the highly detailed plan—even the brand of solar panels is specified—comes from offshore wind (40%), followed by rooftop solar (18%), concentrated solar, onshore wind, and solar PV (10% each), rounded out with hydroelectric, geothermal, tidal, and wave power. Efficiency is an important piece too: energy retrofits, solar hot water heaters. The most difficult part to carry out would probably be converting New York’s entire vehicle fleet to hydrogen fuel cell and battery electric. The stringent plan doesn’t allow for liquid biofuels because of the air pollution they cause and because combustion engines are so much less efficient than electric cars. In fact, the conversion to electricity for heating and transportation could cut our overall power demand a projected 37% under this scenario.
Mark Jacobson is Stanford professor and lead author of the paper, published in the journal Energy Policy, which was commissioned after a chance meeting between himself, actor Mark Ruffalo, who’s become a zealous anti-fracking activist in New York State, and Josh Fox, director of the documentary Gasland. They asked the professor to adapt his model for taking the U.S. 100% renewable to local conditions in New York State.
The 64-page paper is silent about political barriers to building a giant wind farm off Long Island, to say nothing of convincing—or compelling—every driver in the state to trade in for a hybrid. But in the wake of the latest news that global temperatures are soaring higher than they have in 11,000 years, it’s a timely reminder that the power to do things differently is in our hands right now.
[IMAGE: Mark Ruffalo via Shutterstock]