Could California Go All in On Renewable Energy?

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A Stanford professor has presented a plan to power all of the Golden State’s energy needs with renewable energy by 2050.

“If implemented, this plan will eliminate air pollution mortality and global warming emissions from California, stabilize prices and create jobs -- there is little downside,” said Mark Z. Jacobson, the study’s lead author and a Stanford professor of civil and environmental engineering, in a press release.

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It would take 25,000 onshore 5-megawatt wind turbines, 1,200 concentrated solar plants, 15 million residential rooftop photovoltaic systems, 72 geothermal plants, 5,000 wave devices and 3,400 tidal turbines.

After that initial investment, though, the researchers say the plan would save about $103 billion per year in health costs per year, and about $48 billion per year in climate change costs (such as coastal erosion and extreme weather damage).

The study, published in the journal Energy, is the second of its kind. The authors wrote a similar plan for New York, and are working on plans for all 50 states. The reports propose using technology that is currently available.

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“Like New York, California has a clear choice to make: Double down on 20th-century fossil fuels or accelerate toward a clean, green-energy future,” said Anthony Ingraffea, a Cornell University engineering professor and study co-author.

Most of California’s energy now comes from oil, natural gas, nuclear power and some coal. The breakdown of the alternative-energy plan would be 55.5 percent from solar, 35 percent from wind and the remainder from a combination of hydroelectric, geothermal, tidal and wave energy.

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For backup, the plan recommends a grid management system that would shift times of demand to match timing of power supply as well as providing oversize capacity.

The plan would not, however, eliminate the “moo factor:” air pollution from cows.

Photo: Thinkstock