New Yorkers are not happy about the boom in Pennsylvania due to increased natural gas in that state - but politicians have been against it. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he will soon decide whether to approve gas drilling but engineers writing in Energy Policy say that wind, water and sunlight could hypothetically be sustainable, inexpensive and reliable and save the state billions of dollars in pollution-related costs.
Their model claims to fulfill all of a state's transportation, electric power, industry, and heating and cooling energy needs with renewable energy, and to calculate the number of new devices and jobs created, amount of land and ocean areas required, and policies needed for such an infrastructure change. It also provides new calculations of air pollution mortality and morbidity impacts and costs based on multiple years of air quality data.
The paper concludes that while a wind, water and solar conversion will result in initial capital cost increases, such as the cost of building renewable energy power plants, these costs would be more than made up for over time by the elimination of fuel costs. The overall switch would reduce New York's end-use power demand by about 37 percent and stabilize energy prices, since fuel costs would be zero, according to the study. It would also create a net gain in manufacturing, installation and technology jobs because nearly all the state's energy would be produced within the state. It's always interesting when academics solve the mystery of free energy after corporations claim it just can't be done.
According to the researchers' calculations, New York's 2030 power demand for all sectors (electricity, transportation, heating/cooling, industry) could be met by:
- 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
According to the paper, if New York switched to wind, water and solar power, air pollution–related deaths would decline by about 4,000 annually and the state would save about $33 billion – 3 percent of the state's gross domestic product – in related health costs every year. They claim that savings alone would pay for the new power infrastructure needed within about 17 years, or about 10 years if annual electricity sales are accounted for. The paper also estimates that resultant emissions decreases would reduce 2050 U.S. climate change costs – such as coastal erosion and extreme weather damage – by about $3.2 billion per year.
Since New York currently bans energy production, almost all its energy comes from imported oil, coal and gas. Under the model the engineers propose, 40 percent of the state's energy would come from local wind power, 38 percent from local solar and the remainder from a combination of hydroelectric, geothermal, tidal and wave energy.
All vehicles would run on battery-electric power and/or hydrogen fuel cells. Electricity-powered air- and ground-source heat pumps, geothermal heat pumps, heat exchangers and backup electric resistance heaters would replace natural gas and oil for home heating and air-conditioning. Air- and ground-source heat pump water heaters powered by electricity and solar hot water preheaters would provide hot water for homes. High temperatures for industrial processes would be obtained with electricity and hydrogen combustion.
"We must be ambitious if we want to promote energy independence and curb global warming," said 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 paper. "Now it is up to the political sphere."
To ensure grid reliability, their plan outlines several methods to match renewable energy supply with demand and to smooth out the variability of wind, water and solar, especially in a state with four seasons. These include a grid management system to shift times of demand to better match with timing of power supply, and "over-sizing" peak generation capacity to minimize times when available power is less than demand.