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A Plan to Power 100 Percent of the Planet with Renewables

Mark Z. Jacobson and Mark A. Delucchi, Scientific American
Key Concepts
Supplies of wind and solar energy on accessible land dwarf the energy consumed by people around the globe.
The authors’ plan calls for 3.8 million large wind turbines, 90,000 solar plants, and numerous geothermal, tidal and rooftop photovoltaic installations worldwide.

The cost of generating and transmitting power would be less than the projected cost per kilowatt-hour for fossil-fuel and nuclear power.

Shortages of a few specialty materials, along with lack of political will, loom as the greatest obstacles.

In December leaders from around the world will meet in Copenhagen to try to agree on cutting back greenhouse gas emissions for decades to come. The most effective step to implement that goal would be a massive shift away from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy sources. If leaders can have confidence that such a transformation is possible, they might commit to an historic agreement. We think they can.
(Nov 2009)
The main article is behind a paywall.

Farms going green to save and survive

Kathy McCabe, Boston Globe
Grass clippings, fallen leaves, tree branches, and other yard waste are cultivated into compost at Clark Farm, creating a fertile bed for artichokes, Brussels sprouts, and kale to take root.

“See how nice and rich it is?’’ said Bill Clark, an eighth-generation farmer, his hands filled with the dark, crumbly matter. “It’s like black gold.’’

Compost has become the natural choice for growing vegetables on Clark’s 11.5-acre farm on Hobart Street in Danvers. It has reduced the use of chemical fertilizers, making for a healthier harvest. Sales of compost to other local farmers and landscapers, who use it as mulch, have also helped the 181-year-old farm to turn a tidy profit. “It sustains us,’’ Clark said. “It started out as something to grow better. Now we are able to make money with it.’’

As Essex County farms strive to survive, many have turned their land into “green’’ acres. And they don’t mean zucchini, lettuce, and cabbage. They mean wind turbines and solar panels that reduce energy costs. Compost, formed from scraps of nature, creates healthy growing conditions. Steel fences and drain pipes help to conserve and protect water supplies.

“We are naturally a ‘green’ industry,’ ’’ said state Agriculture Commissioner Scott Soares. “The changes farmers are making now are going to guide them into the future.’’

But green farming is a bit like going back to the future. Before fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides, farmers relied on the good earth for their harvest. “Basically, green farming is going back to nature,’’ said Clark, who sits on the board of the Essex Agricultural Society, which chose “Go Green With Us’’ as the theme of the Topsfield Fair, which closed Monday. “My father and grandfather farmed this way years ago.’’…
(15 Oct 2009)

Solar power from Sahara a step closer

Ashley Seager, the ecologist
The German-led Desertec initiative believes it can deliver power to Europe as early as 2015

A $400bn (£240bn) plan to provide Europe with solar power from the Sahara moved a step closer to reality today with the formation of a consortium of 12 companies to carry out the work.

The Desertec Industrial Initiative (DII) aims to provide 15% of Europe’s electricity by 2050 or earlier via power lines stretching across the desert and Mediterranean sea.

The German-led consortium was brought together by Munich Re, the world’s biggest reinsurer, and consists of some of country’s biggest engineering and power companies, including Siemens, E.ON, ABB and Deutsche Bank.

Europe by 2015

It now believes the DII can deliver solar power to Europe as early as 2015.

‘We have now passed a real milestone as the company has been founded and there is definitely a profitable business there,’ said Professor Peter Höppe, Munich Re’s head of climate change.

‘We see this as a big step towards solving the two main problems facing the world in the coming years – climate change and energy security,’ said Höppe…
(2 Nov 2009)

Nearly 200 Organizations and Companies Urge Senate to Adopt Key Energy-Efficiency Provision in Climate Bill

Joe Romm, Worldchanging
A diverse coalition of nearly 200 business, labor, civil rights, and environmental groups have sent a letter to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) urging her to support an important energy-efficiency provision that would:

Generate $100 billion in electric efficiency investments;
Create more than 900,000 new construction, energy service, and building maintenance and operations jobs by 2020, and many more additional jobs at plants that supply these sectors (based on analysis by Green Economy, 2009), and;
Reduce consumers’ energy bills by $300 billion.

What is this magical provision? As the letter explains:

We are writing to request that the climate bill require an investment in energy efficiency equivalent to at least 1/3 of the value of the total allowance allocation given to electric utilities. Such an efficiency investment will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs retrofitting millions of buildings nationwide, and benefit consumers by lowering electricity costs by billions of dollars, as residential, commercial, and industrial consumers typically save in the range of $2 to $4 for every $1 invested in energy efficiency. It would also help decrease greenhouse gas emissions and thus reduce the market clearing price of carbon…
(3 Nov 2009)

Report Argues for a Decentralized System of Renewable Power Generation

Jim Witkin, New York Times
Most states could meet their demand for electricity with renewable energy sources inside their own borders, according to a new report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a nonprofit group in Washington that advocates for local sustainability solutions.

The report, called Energy Self-Reliant States, examined the commercial potential for wind, rooftop solar, geothermal and small-scale hydro projects.

Thirty-one states, mostly west of the Mississippi, could meet all their electric demand, and all states could generate at least 25 percent of their demand using these in-state resources, the authors of the report suggest. Of the 36 states with current renewable energy goals or mandates, all could meet these goals by relying on in-state renewable fuels, the report found.

Roof-top photovoltaic panels on their own could generate 25 percent of electricity needs for more than 40 states.

The report advocated strongly for state and local control over these renewable energy assets and a decentralized approach to electricity generation: building small-scale, distributed energy facilities and upgrading the transmission and distribution systems within each state.
This is opposed to national energy policy, which promotes the construction of a high-voltage, national transmission super highway to carry electricity generated in a handful of renewable-rich states to other regions of the country…
(30 Oct 2009)
The report is accessible here