Renewable energy packs a powerful punch. More solar energy hits the Earth's surface in one hour than is used by the entire global energy system in a year. In the U.S., Great Plains and East Coast off-shore wind could provide enough energy to meet the entire country's need. As nations seek ways to address energy security, air pollution, and climate change, they look to renewable resources such as solar, wind, and geothermal.
Now, researchers Mark Jacobson of Stanford and Mark Delucchi of U.C. Davis have calculated that it is possible to meet 100 percent of world energy demand using only energy from clean sources by 2050. They say we can do it -- and, what's more, we can do it using only off-the-shelf technology.
Jacobson and Delucchi did their projections based on only existing technologies that have no climate-disrupting-emissions and "low impacts on wildlife, water pollution, and land." Making the dramatic transition to using only such technology, they suggest, would require a combination of strategic policies and massively ramped-up manufacturing along the lines of retooling the auto sector to produce aircraft during World War II, only much bigger. Other studies, most famously by Robert Socolow and Stephen Pacala, have shown similar results.
Take wind energy, for example. Jacobson and Delucchi's vision calls for production of approximately 3.8 million five-megawatt wind turbines to supply 50 percent of global power demand. They envision a similar scenario for various types of solar, and the rest from geothermal, wave, tidal, and hydro-power.