Study: Wind, Solar, And Other Clean Energy Could Supply All US Power

Citing a new study, wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources presently make up about 10% of US electricity supply, but transitioning to 100% clean energy is both necessary and feasible, states Environment New York.

Environment New York (ENY) has released a new white paper, We Have the Power: 100 Percent Renewable Energy for a Clean, Thriving America.” The white paper lays out the “whys, wherefores, and how-tos for transforming the nation’s energy supply entirely to wind, solar, and other non-polluting sources.

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“Renewable energy has strong public support and clean energy is nearing a tipping point in our economy,” said Heather Leibowitz, ENY director. “It’s revitalizing local economies, while every day the imperative of addressing our environmental challenges becomes clearer.”

American reserves of renewable energy

The report states America has massive, virtually inexhaustible reserves of renewable energy from the wind, the sun, the earth and the oceans. Just a fraction of these resources could power our entire society.

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the United States has the technical potential to meet its current electricity needs more than 100 times over with solar energy and more than 10 times over with wind energy.

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Comparison of Renewable Energy Technical Potential and Current Consumption (Data: NREL)

In addition to these NREL numbers, there is the issue of saving energy.  The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) estimates that we can reduce our overall energy use by 40 to 60% below current levels by mid-century, even as our economy continues to grow.

A review of all seven detailed studies on clean energy systems conducted to date — by academics, government agencies and nonprofit organizations — show there are no insurmountable technological or economic barriers to tapping the country’s vast potential to achieve 100% renewable energy.

“New York and Long Island are among the best areas in the country to transition to 100 percent renewable energy sources because we are burdened with high electric rates and blessed with an abundance of renewable energy sources near our areas of greatest demand,” said Gordian Raacke, executive director of the not-for-profit Renewable Energy Long Island. “We have ample sunshine and abundant offshore breezes year-round, and both are available during hot summer days when we consume most electricity.”

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Global Solar Photovoltaic Capacity (Green Line) versus Projections (data: Greenpeace)

Economists predict that we can build a 100% renewable energy system at costs comparable to or less than what we would have to spend to continue our reliance on dirty energy.

“There’s very little downside to the transition,” said Mark Jacobson of Stanford University, author of several studies showing the feasibility of 100% clean energy. “We think this is a winning situation for everyone in the long term.”

According to ENY, dozens of US cities are already leading the way to 100% clean energy. “Georgetown, Texas, for example, is 90% powered by wind power from Amarillo, and will get another ten% from solar power in West Texas by 2017,” wrote ENY in its press announcement.

Looking at COP21

In Paris during December 2015, the nations of the world inked the historic commitment to protect the climate, pledging efforts “to limit [global] temperature increase to 1.5° C above pre-industrial levels.” Advocates have repeatedly said a transition to 100% clean energy was critical to fulfilling the Paris climate agreement.

“In Paris last December, the nations of the world recognized the severe risk of climate catastrophe posed should the planet warm to 2 degrees C and beyond, and therefore agreed to keep the temperature well below 2 degrees,” said Robert W. Howarth, Ph.D., David R. Atkinson professor of ecology and environmental biology at Cornell University. “To reach this goal requires that the world be largely free of fossil fuels by 2050 and that the richest nations such as the United States be largely so by 2035. This is an ambitious but absolutely necessary goal, and one that we can reach by moving quickly to a 100% renewable energy future. This new white paper helps show us the path.”

“We can have healthier and more economically vibrant communities right now, and a livable future for our kids,” said Leibowitz. “But to get there, we need to transform the way we produce and consume energy. The good news is that 100% renewable is 100% possible.”

Recent Cost Declines in Clean Energy Technologies

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As the graphic shows, significant cost declines are also fueling the movement to renewable energy.

Graphics via ENY

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