Saving two to three million lives a year, clean air and no more bloody wars over petroleum, while we don't spend more on energy than we do now. Using our existing techniques, we can fully switch to sustainable energy in twenty, at most forty years. Sun, wind and water can provide all of our energy, experts say. Even if no technical breakthroughs are achieved now. Oil sheiks should therefore quickly find another source of income ...
Mark Z. Jacobson is professor of civil and environmental engineering at the Stanford California University. Not someone you'd suspect of hippie likes. With transport researcher Mark Delucchi of the Davis University of California (The Dutch will feel at home in the bike rich town of Davis) he published a study of what the oil-free world of 2030 will look like in broad outlines.
Large solar farms in deserts such as those in Arizona and Texas (for Europe, southern Spain and possibly the Sahara are obvious, India has the Thar desert and China the Gobi desert) generate most of all energy. Wind turbines provide the rest, while hydropower is responsible for ten percent. Geothermal energy (geothermal energy) and wave generators provide the rest.
Energy use in 2030
Aircraft will take off in 2030 hydrogen instead of kerosene. This is also very well possible: hydrogen supplies three times as much energy per kilo as kerosene and saves as much weight and thus fuel. However, the tank must be much larger.
Vehicles, ships and trains run on electricity or hydrogen fuel cells. Houses are heated and cooled with electric heat pumps. Coal and natural gas are no longer needed.
The plan will lead to energy savings of thirty percent in the short term. The reason: direct conversion into electricity is much more efficient than combustion. even the best combustion engine may achieve a conversion rate of thirty percent, while electric motors are close to one hundred percent and fuel cells (which generate the electricity) are also well above sixty percent.
Sun and wind with hydro as battery
In their view, wind and solar energy complement each other. The less sun, the more wind. So it is wise to balance investments in both.
Sudden spikes can be absorbed with hydroelectricity: in practice, draining a reservoir if there is a need for a lot of power. They see hydrogen as an energy buffer: as soon as there is a surplus of energy, it is used to generate hydrogen for vehicles, ships and aircraft.
Raw material and land use
They have based their calculations on the known quantities of raw materials. Even scarce raw materials such as platinum and rare earths turned out not to be a bottleneck. The appeal to land is not too bad. About four-tenths of the land is taken up by the installations and another six-tenths of percent to allow windmills to be placed far enough apart.
Essential to the plan is a widespread network of electricity cables that can transport electricity from places with surpluses to places with energy shortages.
Both researchers think that an amount equal to what was spent on the Apollo project is enough to turn the United States into a green economy.
Providing all global energy with wind, water and solar power
ibid, part 2
World Can Be Powered by Alternative Energy, Using Today's Technology, in 20-40 Years, Experts Say
Stanford press release