Stanford University researchers, led by civil engineer Mark Jacobson, have developed detailed plans for each U.S. state to attain 100 percent wind, water and solar power by 2050 using currently available technology. The plan, presented at the 2014 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference in Chicago, also forms the basis for the Solutions Project nonprofit.
“The greatest barriers to a conversion are neither technical nor economic. They are social and political,” the AAAS paper concludes. The proposal is to eliminate dirty and inefficient fossil fuel combustion as an energy source. All vehicles would be powered by electric batteries or by hydrogen produced by electrolysis, rather than natural gas. High-temperature industrial processes would also use electricity or hydrogen combustion. Transmission lines carrying energy between states or countries will prove one of the greatest challenges. With natural energy sources, electricity needs to be more mobile, so that when there’s no sun or wind, a city or country can import the energy it needs. The biggest problem is which companies should pay to build and maintain the lines.