Researchers envision New York state powered entirely by renewables

12 Mar 2013

Imagine a state powered only by renewable energy. It’s possible, according to US researchers who have mapped out an alternative energy future for New York that includes jobs and cost savings.

The researchers’ study, to be published in the journal Energy Policy, finds it’s technically and economically possible to convert New York’s energy infrastructure into one powered by wind, water and sunlight (WWS).

Researchers at Standford University in California and scientists from Cornell University and the University of California-Davis have outlined a plan where renewable energy meets New York state’s industry, transportation, electric power, and heating and cooling needs.

They have also calculated the number of new devices and jobs created, the amount of land and ocean areas required, and policies needed for such a change to infrastructure.

Impact on health

The study also includes calculations of air pollution mortality and morbidity impacts and costs based on multiple years of air quality data.

For instance, if New York switched to WWS, air pollution-related deaths would drop by about 4,000 annually and the state would save about US$33bn – 3pc 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 taken into account.

The study also acknowledges that while a WWS conversion may result in initial capital cost increases, such as the cost of building renewable energy power plants, the elimination of fuel costs would more than make up for these new costs over time.

The overall switch would also cut down on New York state’s end-use power demand by about 37pc and stabilise energy prices, because fuel costs would be zero, according to the study.

The conversion would also create a net gain in manufacturing, installation and technology jobs because nearly all the state’s energy would be produced within New York itself. At the moment, almost all of the state’s energy comes from imported oil, coal and gas.

“We must be ambitious if we want to promote energy independence and curb global warming,” said study co-author Robert Howarth, a Cornell University professor of ecology and environmental biology.

The researchers are developing similar plans for other states, including California and Washington.

Tina Costanza was a journalist and sub-editor at Silicon Republic