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Despite the current controversy about hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in New York, a group of scientists from Stanford believe that even a city as large as the Big Apple could be powered by alternative means by the year 2050. In their study, which is scheduled for publication in the journal Energy Policy, the researchers state that it is “economically feasible to convert New York’s all-purpose energy infrastructure to one powered by wind, water and sunlight (WWS)“. Not just that, but they also feel that their strategy would create a host of jobs and save the state billions of dollars in pollution-related costs.
The report, titled “Examining the Feasibility of Converting New York State’s All-Purpose Energy Infrastructure to One Using Wind, Water and Sunlight”, was authored by Mark Z. Jacobson, a senior fellow with the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and the Precourt Institute for Energy. It was co-authored by scientists from Cornell University and the University of California-Davis.
In his study, Jacobson finds that while a WWS conversion would initially result in 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. “Converting to wind, water and sunlight is feasible, will stabilize costs of energy and will produce jobs while reducing health and climate damage,” writes Jacobson in the study.
The alternative energy switch would also reduce New York’s end-use power demand by about 37% and stabilize energy prices. The report also gives a very detailed breakdown of the equipment needed in order to achieve an energy independent New York:
- 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
If New York was to follow these findings, then it is estimated that air pollution-related deaths would decline by about 4,000 annually and the state would save about $33 billion – 3% of the state’s gross domestic product – in related health costs every year. 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.