One of the perceptions of renewable energy that environmental advocates often work to eliminate is that technologies like solar, wind and other forms of clean power are prohibitively expensive. Unfortunately, many people still believe that the future of U.S. energy infrastructure is in natural gas and "clean coal". But a recent report from Stanford University is the latest evidence that this view is mistaken and that global energy supply could eventually be derived primarily from renewables.
The study, co-authored by Stanford researcher Mark Z. Jacobson and U.C. Davis researcher Mark A. Delucchi, states that the world's power needs could be met with solar, wind and other alternative, sustainable sources within 40 years using current technology. Their findings were published in Energy Policy, and involve a plan that would convert most of the world's power usage to electricity. Wind and solar would provide about 90 percent of the world's energy needs, while geothermal and hydroelectric would contribute about 4 percent.
For applications that require much higher power outputs, such as fueling large ships and trains, the world could rely on hydrogen, which could be procured using electricity.
Making these changes, the authors believe, would result in 2.5 to 3 million lives saved, and would allow the world to avoid the disastrous effects of climate change.
"Based on our findings, there are no technological or economic barriers to converting the entire world to clean, renewable energy sources," Jacobson said in a press release. "It is a question of whether we have the societal and political will."
While the answer to that question remains uncertain, hopefully research will continue to pour in and convince the general public of the seriousness of our energy problems and the potential of renewable sources.