A response to a Forbes article written by Dr. James Conca, a planetary geologist has widened the debate on whether 100 percent renewable energy is possible.
The origin paper, written by EcoWatch contributor Mark Jacobson and his team, focused on renewable energy taking the place of coal and nuclear energy in America. The paper was then criticized by another paper, both of which were published in PNAS.
Jacobson asserted that nuclear power and coal with carbon capture processes are not economically attractive in a capitalist market. In fact, if it were possible to increase renewable energy sources without increasing costs, nuclear energy would no longer be an energy solution.
Additionally, the acres needed in order to create renewable energy grids would be less than the percentage of US land currently holding inactive oil and gas wells alone. A misquoted critique of 15 million acres of land going to renewable energy processes is only 0.66 percent of US land, which would replace all fossil fuels and can be continuously renewed, relieving the need to build on more land to get the same amount of energy.
There are a reported 2.3 million inactive wells on US land right now, with an average of 20,000 new wells created annually; this number does not include the new roads and storage facilities that would also need to be built to keep up with supply.
The article also mentions hydroelectric installations. The origin paper discusses increasing the hydropower maximum discharge rate by simply adding turbines to existing dams. This accomplishes two things: it allows for an increase in hydropower energy outputs and it makes no changes to the annual water amount in any reservoir, enabling dams to become more efficient in the power it produces to its communities.
The last point of contention comes in the form of district heat, which is an inexpensive form of storing energy. Jacobson makes a point of noting that not only is district heat a low-cost alternative, costing less than 1/300th of the cost per energy unit that is stored in traditional batteries, it is also a major component of Denmark’s heat energy production.
Although more research is needed in order to craft a renewable energy policy, this debate serves to point out that renewable energy is possible. The only choice now is to move forward with implementing these new ideas for a sustainable and long-lasting energy grid.