Stanford Woods Institute Senior Fellow Mark Jacobson and his colleagues recently developed detailed plans to transform the energy infrastructure of New York, California and Washington states from fossil fuels to 100 percent renewable resources by 2050. Among the compelling findings of research behind the plans:

  • Powering the U.S. with only wind, water and solar energy sources (WWS) would save the average consumer $3,400 per year
  • Over 15 years, driving an electric car could save $20,000-$40,000 in energy costs
  • In 2013, states with highest percentage of wind power had energy costs increase 3 cents; all other states, except Hawaii, saw energy costs increase 4 cents
  • Powering the country with only WWS sources could lead to a 3 percent GDP uptick 
  • Large offshore wind farms could reduce hurricane storm surges up to 80 percent and wind speeds up to 50 percent

Jacobson presented these details and others as part of a roadmap to renewable energy for all 50 states at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting in Chicago on Feb. 15. His talk was part of a symposium titled "Is It Possible to Reduce 80% of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Energy by 2050?"

The roadmap includes an online interactive map tailored to maximize the resource potential of each state. Hovering a cursor over California, for example, reveals that the Golden State can meet virtually all of its power demands (transportation, electricity, heating, etc.) in 2050 by switching to a clean technology portfolio that is 55 percent solar, 35 percent wind (on- and offshore), 5 percent geothermal and 4 percent hydroelectric.

"The new roadmap is designed to provide each state a first step toward a renewable future," said Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford and a senior fellow at the Precourt Institute for Energy. "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."

The 50-state roadmap was launched this week on the website of The Solutions Project, a national outreach effort led by Jacobson, actor Mark Ruffalo, film director Josh Fox and others to raise public awareness about switching to clean energy produced entirely by wind, water and sunlight. 

The technology and logistical ability for such a conversion exists, Jacobson said, adding that the issue is fundamentally a question of social and political will.

Read more about Jacobson's research.