“Based on our findings, there are no technological or economic barriers to converting the entire world to clean, renewable energy sources,” said Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering [at Stanford]. “It is a question of whether we have the societal and political will.”
Further, they say it can be done in 30-40 years by converting to fuel cells and electrical power, leaving the internal combustion engine behind. Power would come primarily from solar and wind, with hydroelectric being used to back up and smooth the power generation. They say that power from the world could be generated using 1.0% of the land and that most wind farms could be located offshore. Further, they say we already have all the resources, including rare metals, do this.
Hmmm. I question whether hydroelectric alone can smooth renewable energy sources. We need stored power for that, and on a massive, decentralized grid scale too. Also, such a transformation might be possible in highly industrialized nations, it’s questionable if this could happen in China, India, much less in poor Third World countries.
Still, their basic point is valid, given enough political and societal will, we could massively transform how we create and use energy.
Let’s not forget that some 70% of energy generated in this country is wasted, either through inefficiency or through non-use. Two huge contributors to this are the aging and inefficient distribution grid and coal plants that cost too much to adjust for dips in power usage. Local sourcing and elimination of coal plants would not only help the issue of clean energy, they would also help with conservation efforts.
Cleanly generating the amount of energy we use today seems (and perhaps is) unlikely. But what if we only had to generate 30% of that? We’re already almost half way there!
From the societal point of view we have little option to choose alternative energy source as we are still connected to national power grid. Apart of that to transform the connection to something else is not affordable for ordinary end users. As we talk about political will: it takes at least one decade to politicians understand which way to go. Unfortunately also such occurrences as happened in Japan can show the direction how to solve energy demand.