Renewable New York: Local Energy Today and Tomorrow
Sep 26, 2013 01:21PM
By Ellen Weininger
Is it really possible to achieve 100 percent renewable energy in New York? According to a recent peer-reviewed study published in the journal Energy Policy, renewable energy solutions are readily available to meet the state’s energy needs by 2030. All that stands in the way is insufficient public awareness and political will.
Stanford University’s Mark Z. Jacobson, PhD, is lead author of the report, “Examining the Feasibility of Converting New York State’s All-Purpose Energy Infrastructure to One Using Wind, Water, and Sunlight.” A few of the co-authors include Cornell University’s Anthony R. Ingraffea, PhD, Robert W. Howarth, PhD, and Jannette M. Barth, PhD, of the Pepacton Institute, LLC.
The study demonstrates that it is both technologically and economically feasible to convert the state’s existing infrastructure to one that would eliminate its dependence on polluting fossil fuels. This would mean job growth, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, energy independence and security, improved water and air quality, protection of public health, lower health-care costs, and stabilization of energy costs. It would also mean increased efficiency leading to a 37 percent reduction in demand for electric power.
The “wind, water and sunlight plan,” as it is known, describes how much power each renewable resource could be expected to produce and its potential “footprint” in the state, and provides a road map to get there. Implementation of the plan would protect other existing New York industries (e.g., farming, recreation, tourism, hunting, fishing, beer and wine production) rather than displacing them, as fossil fuel extraction techniques like hydro-fracking are known to do.
The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is another key goal of Jacobson’s plan. Last May, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which monitors carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere, issued an alarming report: the monitoring station’s recorded daily mean atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide passed 400 parts per million, its highest level in more than three million years. The highest safe level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is 350 parts per million.
What can you do to help push New York toward 100 percent renewable energy by 2030? It’s simple. Start by conserving energy. You know the drill: turn off the lights whenever you leave a room; purchase energy-saving appliances; run dishwashers and clothes washers with full loads only. Next, implement further energy-efficiency measures with the help of an energy audit of your home, school or office. Once you’ve decreased your energy footprint, it’s time to look at some renewable energy options, like solar panels.
Ellen Weininger is educational outreach director for Grassroots Environmental Education with offices in Port Washington, and Rye, NY, and Westport, CT. For more info: grassrootsinfo.org.