Study: Shifting the world to 100% clean, renewable energy by 2030 – here are the numbers
Wind, water and solar energy resources are sufficiently available to provide all the world’s energy. Converting to electricity and hydrogen powered by these sources would reduce world power demand by 30 percent, thereby avoiding 13,000 coal power plants. Materials and costs are not limitations to these conversions, but politics may be, say Stanford and UC researchers who have mapped out a blueprint for powering the world.
Most of the technology needed to shift the world from fossil fuel to clean, renewable energy already exists. Implementing that technology requires overcoming obstacles in planning and politics, but doing so could result in a 30 percent decrease in global power demand, say Stanford civil and environmental engineering Professor Mark Z. Jacobson and University of California-Davis researcher Mark Delucchi.
To make clear the extent of those hurdles – and how they could be overcome – they have written an article that is the cover story in the November issue of Scientific American. In it, they present new research mapping out and evaluating a quantitative plan for powering the entire world on wind, water and solar energy, including an assessment of the materials needed and costs. And it will ultimately be cheaper than sticking with fossil fuel or going nuclear, they say.
The key is turning to wind, water and solar energy to generate electrical power – making a massive commitment to them – and eliminating combustion as a way to generate power for vehicles as well as for normal electricity use.
The problem lies in the use of fossil fuels and biomass combustion, which are notoriously inefficient at producing usable energy. For example, when gasoline is used to power a vehicle, at least 80 percent of the energy produced is wasted as heat.
With vehicles that run on electricity, it’s the opposite. Roughly 80 percent of the energy supplied to the vehicle is converted into motion, with only 20 percent lost as heat. Other combustion devices can similarly be replaced with electricity or with hydrogen produced by electricity.
The Scientific American article provides a quantification of global solar and wind resources based on new research by Jacobson and Delucchi.
Analyzing only on-land locations with a high potential for producing power, they found that even if wind were the only method used to generate power, the potential for wind energy production is 5 to 15 times greater than what is needed to power the entire world. For solar energy, the comparable calculation found that solar could produce about 30 times the amount needed.
If the world built just enough wind and solar installations to meet the projected demand for the scenario outlined in the article, an area smaller than the borough of Manhattan would be sufficient for the wind turbines themselves. Allowing for the required amount of space between the turbines boosts the needed acreage up to 1 percent of Earth’s land area, but the spaces between could be used for crops or grazing. The various non-rooftop solar power installations would need about a third of 1 percent of the world’s land, so altogether about 1.3 percent of the land surface would suffice.
Category Archives: Al Gore
Barack Obama will give Gore a big part to play in his adminstration. Great news and a great move by Obama.
“I would,” Obama said. “Not only will I, but I will make a commitment that Al Gore will be at the table and play a central part in us figuring out how we solve this problem. He’s somebody I talk to on a regular basis. I’m already consulting with him in terms of these issues, but climate change is real. It is something we have to deal with now, not 10 years from now, not 20 years from now.”
A comprehensive study of Antarctica’s ice confirms that the polar cap is shrinking. In 2006 alone, Antarctica lost nearly 200 billion tonnes of ice, researchers say — the equivalent of a global sea level rise of more than half a millimetre. That’s 75% more than losses in 1996, they add.
The study follows on a 2006 report that also concluded the rate of ice loss from glaciers melting and sliding away is greater than the gain from snow (see “Antarctica is shrinking”). That report concluded that from 2002 to 2005, Antarctica lost an average of 152 cubic kilometres (139 billion tonnes) a year.
“It reinforces the finding that the Antarctic is losing mass — which is still not a well-accepted result,” says Eric Rignot, an ice sheet expert at the University of California at Irvine and head of the team that reports the new result today in Nature Geoscience 1. “Doing it with an independent technique is very important,” he adds. Both groups used satellite data, but based on different techniques.
Andrew Shepherd, who studies global ice sheet dynamics at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, says Rignot’s findings are in good agreement with his2 and other recent studies. He says the net losses in ice mass are very similar to losses he has calculated for Greenland (see “Glacial pace picks up”).
Isabella Velicogna, now a colleague of Rignot’s at Irvine, led the 2006 work that also showed Antarctic ice loss. Her study was based on gravity measurements and had more data points, but over a shorter time period. She says her and Rignot’s results are in good agreement. “We’re both seeing a trend that is significant.”
The IPCC report (which is proving to be too conservative) did not suggest that Antarctic melting was imminent. But it’s happening. Rignot:
“Each time I look at some new data, I am astonished.”
The deny-ers have a new tactic; contending that warming has stopped. No.
1998 was a very warm year, yes, and that was “above the curve”. Then temperatures dropped more to the trend line. And they are continuing to trend upwards. The red line shows the yearly average surface temperatures. The other lines show the long term trends for various periods, ie 5 years, ten years, etc. Climate is a long term trend.
Click to enlarge.
2005 is the warmest year in recorded history. Through November, NASA reports that 2007 is looking like it will be the second warmest. This at a time when solar activity is at a minimum. According to NASA, we would be even warmer but for the El Nina phenomenon.
The Senate rejects effective action on climate change because its members are bought and bound by the companies that stand to lose. When you study the tables showing who gives what to whom, you are struck by two things.
One is the quantity. Since 1990, the energy and natural resources sector – mostly coal, oil, gas, logging and agribusiness – has given $418m to federal politicians in the US. Transport companies have given $355m. The other is the width: the undiscriminating nature of this munificence. The big polluters favour the Republicans, but most of them also fund Democrats.
….Until the American people confront their political funding system, their politicians will keep speaking from the pocket…
Twenty years ago, Hansen kicked off this issue by testifying before Congress that the planet was warming and that people were the cause. At the time, we could only guess how much warming it would take to put us in real danger. Since the pre-Industrial Revolution concentration of carbon in the atmosphere was roughly 275 parts per million, scientists and policymakers focused on what would happen if that number doubled — 550 was a crude and mythical red line, but politicians and economists set about trying to see if we could stop short of that point. The answer was: not easily, but it could be done.
In the past five years, though, scientists began to worry that the planet was reacting more quickly than they had expected to the relatively small temperature increases we’ve already seen…
The rapid melt of most glacial systems, for instance, convinced many that 450 parts per million was a more prudent target.
But the data just keep getting worse. The news this fall that Arctic sea ice was melting at an off-the-charts pace and data from Greenland suggesting that its giant ice sheet was starting to slide into the ocean make even 450 look too high. Consider: We’re already at 383 parts per million, and it’s knocking the planet off kilter in substantial ways. So, what does that mean?
It means, Hansen says, that we’ve gone too far. “The evidence indicates we’ve aimed too high — that the safe upper limit for atmospheric CO2 is no more than 350 ppm,” he said after his presentation. Hansen has reams of paleo-climatic data to support his statements (as do other scientists who presented papers at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco this month). The last time the Earth warmed two or three degrees Celsius — which is what 450 parts per million implies — sea levels rose by tens of meters, something that would shake the foundations of the human enterprise should it happen again.