It's no secret that we're big advocates of clean renewable energy here at TreeHugger, as moving toward solar, wind, geothermal and hydropower can offer a wide range of environmental, social, and economic benefits. Transitioning to 100% renewable energy can reduce or eliminate the production of air and water pollutants at the generating source, which can affect the personal health of local residents, and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions can help in the long-term health of the planet and its climate, including its effects on extreme weather events.
But all too often, naysayers will take issue with the ability for clean energy to meet our power needs, and point out that any single source of renewable energy, such as solar power, is not a feasible replacement for our current energy demand. However, any sane clean energy transition plan doesn't hinge on a single technology alone to provide energy, but rather focuses on implementing a diverse portfolio of renewable energy technologies that are appropriate to the region where they will be used.
So how do we get from here, where we're highly dependent on fossil fuels for our major energy needs, to there, where all of our power comes from clean energy?
In 2011, a scientist, a banker, an actor, and a filmmaker, came together to envision a pathway to 100% renewable energy in the US, and their initiative, The Solutions Project, just recently released a state-by-state roadmap for transitioning to 100% clean renewable energy.
Instead of focusing on what they didn't want to see, which they termed as "extreme energy extraction", with all of its attendant environmental and health issues, they decided that their focus would be on being part of the solution, and to use a combination of science, business, and culture to help usher in the transition to 100% clean, renewable energy in the US.
"The purpose of these plans is to provide policy makers and the public with a technically - and economically - feasible pathway toward a sustainable, secure, and reliable energy infrastructure that eliminates health and environmental problems due to air, water, and soil pollution and global warming.
The plans, if implemented, will result in long-term energy stability, energy price stability, human and environmental health, job growth, and energy security." - The Solutions Project
What's unique about this renewable energy project is that it isn't advocating or looking for any one-size-fits-all answer to our energy needs, but rather takes a state-by-state approach and sets out a plan for each one, including the projected energy mix for 2050, the number of jobs created in the process, the health and economic benefits, and the projected energy cost savings that can result from it.
The Solutions Project has an interactive graphic that allows users to click on their state and view its proposed clean energy plan, which can vary widely depending on its location. For example, the resources and potential in a state such as Idaho, where hydroelectric and onshore wind power could provide 60% of the energy, is much different than Massachussets, where offshore wind could provide almost the same percentage (55%). Each of these graphics also have a sharing option, so that advocates for clean energy can share them via social media (including automatically tagging that state's governor with their Twitter name for getting their attention).
"The new roadmap is designed to provide each state a first step toward a renewable future. It provides all of the basic information, such as how many wind turbines and solar panels would be needed to power each state, how much land area would be required, what would be the cost and cost savings, how many jobs would be created, how much pollution-related mortality and global-warming emissions would be avoided." - Mark Jacobson, co-founder and Stanford professor
Obviously, having a roadmap is not the same as having a strategic plan for deploying more clean energy projects, or answers for who is going to pay for them, or details about which specific renewable energy project will go where, so it's not a magic bullet for clean energy transition, but it does hint at the possibilities for moving forward on this important issue.
"The Solutions Project focuses on market-based solutions and identifies opportunities that make economic sense for consumers, businesses, communities, and states. We work with clean energy business leaders, policy experts, NGOs, and other organizations to remove the barriers facing the future of clean, renewable energy. This transition makes economic sense for all of us, and we are going to show you the economic proof. Ultimately, this is a green issue - the additional green that will find its way into your pocket." - The Solutions Project
More background on the initiative, as well as answers to FAQ about it, can be found here: Plans to Convert the 50 United States to Wind, Water, and Sunlight (WWS)