Endless Energy – New York Style


GLOBE-Net, March 23, 2013 – A group of University-based researchers have put together a visionary blueprint for converting all of New York State’s electricity, transportation, heating, cooling and industry energy infrastructure to one derived entirely from wind, water, and sunlight and electrolytic hydrogen.

Under the plan, the state’s 2030 all-purpose end-use power would be provided by onshore wind (10%), offshore wind (40%), concentrated solar (10%), solar-PV plants (10%), residential rooftop PV (6%), commercial / government rooftop PV (12%),  geothermal (5%), wave energy (0.5%), tidal (1%), and hydroelectric (5.5%).

The conversion would reduce the state’s end-use power demand by approximately 37%, argue the researchers and would stabilize energy prices since fuel costs would be zero. It also would create more jobs than those lost because nearly all the state’s energy would be produced locally.

In brief, the plan requires or results in the following changes:

  • Replace fossil-fuel electric power generators with wind turbines, solar photovoltaic (PV) plants and rooftop systems, concentrated solar power (CSP) plants, solar hot water heater systems, geothermal power plants, a few additional hydro- electric power plants, and a small number of wave and tidal devices.
  • Replace all fossil-fuel combustion for transportation, heating and cooling, and industrial processes with electricity, hydro-gen fuel cells, and a limited amount of hydrogen combustion. Battery-electric vehicles (BEVs), hydrogen fuel cell vehicles (HFCVs), and BEV-HFCV hybrids sold in NYS will replace all combustion-based passenger vehicles, trucks, buses, non-road machines, and locomotives sold in the state. Long-distance trucks will be primarily BEV-HFCV hybrids and HFCVs.
  • Require that ships built in New York be run on hydrogen fuel cells and electricity. The researchers point out that hydrogen-fuel-cell ships, tractors, forklifts, buses, passenger vehicles, and trucks already exist, and that electric vehicles, ferries, and non-road machinery also are present in today’s market.
  • Use electricity- powered air- and ground-source heat pumps, heat exchangers, and backup electric resistance heaters to replace natural gas and oil for home heating and air conditioning.
  • Use air and ground source heat pump water heaters powered by electricity and solar hot water preheaters to provide hot water for homes.
  • Generate high-temperatures for industrial processes from electricity and hydrogen combustion.

Energy Efficiency Plays Key Role:

Reducing energy demand beyond these reductions through energy efficiency measures is an important part of the blueprint.

Such measures include retrofitting residential, commercial, institutional, and government buildings with better insulation; improving the energy-out/energy-in efficiency of end uses with more efficient lighting and the use of heat-exchange and filtration systems; increasing public transit and telecommuting, designing future city infrastructure to facilitate greater use of clean-energy transport; and designing new buildings to use solar energy with more day lighting, solar hot water heating, seasonal energy storage, and improved passive solar heating in winter and cooling in summer.

The researchers argue these changes would boost economic activity, increase jobs in the manufacturing and installation industries, and lead to the development of new and more efficient technologies. They would also reduce social costs by reducing health-related mortality and morbidity and reducing environmental damage to lakes, streams, rivers, forests, buildings, and statues resulting from air and water pollution.

Space requirements:

The researchers, drawn from Stanford University, Cornell University, University of California at Davis, and other Institutes, based their estimates of the required number of wind, water, and solar (WWS) facilities on current end-use power demand for all purposes by sector as at 2010 projected forward to 2030 assuming conventional fossil-fuel and wood use continued as projected, and if all conventional fuels eventually were replaced with renewable energy technologies.

The researchers rated the power generation capacity based on existing technologies. The percent of power generated by each technology was based on the assumption that wind and solar were the only two renewable energy resources that could power the state independently and that each would be configured in an approximate balance to enable load matching. In terms of the number of facilities required, given that wind energy is less expensive, it was expected to dominate the supply mix.

The actual number of facilities, their possible distribution and configuration was determined by determining the overall annual amount of power to be derived from each energy source, and dividing that by the annual power output from each device based on published research findings.


It was estimated that the equivalent of 4,020 5-MW onshore wind turbines and 12,700 5-MW turbines offshore turbines would be needed. This would translate into only 1786 km2 of land required for onshore wind capabilities.

Roughly 5 million 5-kW residential rooftop solar PV systems would be required; 828 50-MW solar-PV plants; 387 100-MW concentrated solar plants; 500,000 100-kW commercial/government solar PV rooftop systems; 36 100-MW geothermal plants; 1910 0.75-MW wave energy devices; 2600 1-MW tidal turbines; and 6.6 1300-MW hydroelectric plants.

Implementation Timetable: 

The blueprint anticipates that the fraction of new electric power generators using renewable energy, if started today, would mean that by 2020, all new generators would be renewable energy generators.

Existing conventional generators will be phased out over time, but by no later than 2050. Similarly, BEVs and HFCVs should be nearly the only new vehicles types sold in NYS by 2020. The growth of electric vehicles will be accompanied by a growth of electric charging stations in residences, commercial parking spaces, service stations, and highway rest stops.

All new heating and cooling technologies installed by 2020 should be using renewable energy sourced technologies and existing technologies could be replaced over time, but by no later than 2050.

Smart Grid: 

To ensure the reliability of the electric power grids, several methods would be used to match renewable energy supply with demand and to smooth out the variability of renewable energy resources. These include:

  • Combining geographically-dispersed renewable energy resources as a bundled set of resources rather than as separate resources and using hydroelectric power to fill remaining gaps;
  • Using demand-response grid management to shift times of demand to match better with the timing of renewable power supply;
  • Over-sizing renewable energy peak generation capacity to minimize the times when available renewable energy is less than demand and to provide power to produce heat for air and water and hydrogen for transportation and heating when such power exceeds demand;
  • Integrating weather forecasts into system operation to reduce reserve requirements;
  • Storing energy in thermal storage media, batteries or other storage media at the site of generation or use; and
  • Storing energy in electric-vehicle batteries for later extraction (i.e. vehicle-to-grid applications).

No Natural Gas:

Natural gas was excluded from the blueprint for several reasons. The researchers argued that the mining, transport, and use of conventional natural gas for electric power results in at least 60-80 times more carbon-equivalent emissions and air pollution mortality per unit electric power generated than does wind energy over a 100-year time frame.

Over the 10-30 year time frame, natural gas was seen as a greater warming agent relative to all renewable energy technologies and a danger to the Arctic sea ice due to its leaked methane and black carbon-flaring emissions.

The researchers acknowledge the main argument for increasing the use of natural gas has been that it is a ”bridge fuel” between coal and renewable energy because of the belief that natural gas causes less global warming per unit electric power generated than coal.

Although natural gas does emit less carbon dioxide per unit electric power than coal, two factors were seen as causing natural gas to increase global warming relative to coal: higher methane emissions and less sulfur dioxide emissions per unit energy than coal.

This study also excluded the future use of liquid biofuels for transportation and heating, reasoning that in addition to creating more air pollution than gasoline for transportation, their tank-to-wheel efficiency of combustion was 1/4th to 1/5th the plug-to-wheel efficiency of electricity for transportation.

Endless Energy:

Leaving aside the policy, program and lifestyle changes implicit in this transition, the sheer breadth of analysis behind the blueprint is one of the more compelling features of this report.

(* Full details are available in the citation below)

It harkens back to research led by the GLOBE Foundation published in 2007 on the Endless Energy Project in partnership with BC Hydro, Day 4 Energy, the Power Technology Alliance, the National Research Council of Canada, and Western Economic Diversification.

Logo _endless _project

The Endless Energy project was a facts-based examination of British Columbia’s potential to be energy self-sufficient from renewable sources by 2025. The report covers energy use in all sectors of the economy, and energy supply from all sources indigenous to the Province.

The report concludes that achieving energy self-sufficiency from renewables, or renewables in combination with clean fossil fuels technologies, is practical for British Columbia. Since 80% of greenhouse emissions result from fossil fuels consumption, the effect on greenhouse gas emissions would be dramatic … an Endless Energy economy in action would garner the world’s attention. That report is available for download here.

* Citation: Jacobson, M.Z., et al., Examining the feasibility of converting New York State’s all-purpose energy infrastructure to one using wind, water, and sunlight. Energy Policy (2013). An interesting interview with lead author Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, is available here.

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