New York's Potential Renewable Energy Future Mapped Out By New Study

New York state could be powered entirely by renewable energy within the near future, a new study from Stanford University has found. Wind, solar, and water power could provide all of the energy used by the electric grid, industry, all forms of transportation, and heating/cooling. The research found that such a switchover would provide substantial benefits to the state, creating a net gain in jobs, reducing air pollution-related deaths and costs, stabilizing energy prices, and reducing carbon emissions.

Image Credit: Stanford University
Image Credit: Stanford University


“Converting to wind, water and sunlight is feasible, will stabilize costs of energy and will produce jobs while reducing health and climate damage,” said Mark Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering, a senior fellow with the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and the Precourt Institute for Energy, and a co-author on the new study.

This is the first study to develop a clear plan to fulfill all of the state’s myriad energy needs, and also to determine just how much land and ocean area will be needed, what infrastructure will be needed, and what policies will be needed to make the transition. The study also created new calculations of air pollution mortality and morbidity, drawing on many years of air pollution data.

The primary conclusion is that while initial costs may be somewhat higher than simply continuing as is, those costs will be more than made back rather quickly, largely as a result of the elimination of fuel costs. The switchover would create a net gain in manufacturing, installation, and technology jobs. And there would be a large decline in the number of air pollution–related deaths and costs, saving the state about $33 billion in healthcare costs annually. It’s also estimated that the reduction in carbon emissions that would follow the switchover would “decrease 2050 U.S. climate change costs — such as coastal erosion and extreme weather damage — by about $3.2 billion per year,” as Stanford University noted in its press release.

According to the plan’s calculations, all of New York’s 2030 power needs could be met by the following infrastructure:

  • 4,020 onshore, 5-megawatt wind turbines
  • 12,770 offshore, 5-megawatt wind turbines
  • 387 100-megawatt concentrated solar plants
  • 828 50-megawatt photovoltaic power plants
  • 5 million 5-kilowatt residential rooftop photovoltaic systems
  • 500,000 100-kilowatt commercial/government rooftop photovoltaic systems
  • 36 100-megawatt geothermal plants
  • 1,910 0.75-megawatt wave devices
  • 2,600 1-megawatt tidal turbines
  • 7 1,300-megawatt hydroelectric power plants, of which most exist already

“We must be ambitious if we want to promote energy independence and curb global warming,” said study co-author Robert Howarth, a Cornell University professor of ecology and environmental biology. “The economics of this plan make sense,” said Anthony Ingraffea, a Cornell engineering professor and a co-author of the study. “Now it is up to the political sphere.”

The new study is going to being published in the journal Energy Policy.

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