Using only existing known technology, Michigan can transition to 100% wind, water and solar energy for all purposes (electricity, transportation, heating/cooling and industry) by 2050. That's the message from Prof. Mark Jacobson of Stanford University. The obstacles are purely political.
By this plan, Michigan's projected 2050 energy mix would be:
- 40% Onshore wind turbines
- 31% Offshore wind turbines
- 18.8% Solar panel plants (utility-scale solar farms)
- 3.5% Residential rooftop solar panels
- 3.2% Commercial and government rooftop solar panels
- 2% Concentrated solar power plants (utility-scale thermal from sunlight)
- 1% Wave devices
- 0.5% Conventional hydroelectric
The number of jobs created where a person is employed for 40 consecutive years would be 178,200; 108,700 in construction and 69,500 in operation.
Using wind, water and solar electricity for everything instead of burning fuel and improving energy efficiency means that much less energy is needed. Instead of 100 units of energy used today, only 36 units would be needed in 2050. Part of this comes from the greater efficiency of electric motors over gasoline and diesel motors. Part of it comes from better-insulated buildings and direct use of solar heat. Using less energy obviously saves money.
Other savings come from death and illness avoided because the pollution associated with burning fossil fuels would be avoided. The savings due to illness would amount to 4% of the state's “Gross Domestic Product,” in economic terminology. 1,740 deaths from air pollution would be avoided. The plan pays for itself in as little as 11 years from air pollution and climate cost savings. The new energy generators would have a direct footprint of 0.37% of Michigan's land, plus another 4.97%, mostly for adequate spacing between wind towers. The spaces between can still be used for farming.
Future energy costs in the period 2020-2030 are projected to be:
- Average fossil fuel/nuclear energy costs = 20.1 cents per Kilowatt-hour.
- Health and climate costs of fossil fuels add 5.7 cents per Kilowatt-hour.
- Wind, water and solar average electricity = 6.2 cents per Kilowatt-hour.
The annual energy, health and climate savings per person in 2050 = $8000.
The annual savings on energy alone per person in 2050 = $5000.
All the above information comes from http://thesolutionsproject.org/.
Now, we all know that when 2050 rolls around, reality will not turn out to be exactly as described above. Reality today does not conform to the plans anybody made 35 years ago, and reality in 35 years is not going to conform exactly to the plans that anyone has today.
The point is, it's technically and scientifically possible for our society to thrive without using the fossil fuels and nuclear power as it does today. The goal is feasible, and there are numerous reasons we ought to be moving in that direction.
To repeat - the obstacles are political. Altogether too many of our political and cultural leaders are trying to lead us in into an unsustainable future. Fossil fuels and nuclear fuels are getting ever harder to find and more expensive. A large and growing part of the expense is the pollution, both chemical and radioactive, that follows their use. No matter how often they say, "Jobs! Security! Economy!" there are no jobs, no security and no economy on a dead planet.
We need to learn how to say "Jobs! Security! Economy! And Sustainability!" even louder, while we point in the direction of a clean energy future.