Robert Howarth, a Cornell ecology professor, suggested last month the state could get half its power from wind and enough from solar, tidal and other forms of clean energy to replace fossil fuels by 2030. The plan for 254 gigawatts of generation capacity would cost about $1.5 million a megawatt, or $382 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The findings cast doubt on the ability of the state to eliminate oil, natural gas and coal from its energy supply. The Cornell proposal would require onshore wind turbines covering an area 3.3 times the size of New York City’s five boroughs.
“It’s too ambitious by 2030 to replace all the state’s power with renewables, although big progress could be made,” Angus McCrone, a senior analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance in London, said today. The projections, he said, look “unrealistic” for individual technologies.
The Cornell study published in the journal “Energy Policy” in March was done along with Stanford University. It called for 4,020 onshore turbines and 12,700 machines offshore harnessing the wind’s power. It also suggested 387 concentrated solar plants and 828 utility-scale photovoltaic generators. Wave, tidal and hydroelectric would supply much of the rest of the electricity.
The report envisions all vehicles running on battery power or hydrogen fuel cells and electricity-powered heat pumps replacing heating oil in homes. New York already gets about 11 percent of its energy from renewable sources, according to the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation.
Savings from reducing air pollution would top $33 billion, and a further $3.2 billion could be saved by reducing coastal erosion and extreme weather due to climate change, the researchers concluded.
The offshore wind turbines would cover an area of about 4,903 square miles, and onshore machines would cover a further 1,000 square miles, according to calculations based on Bloomberg New Energy Finance data for how much space each turbine would occupy. By comparison, New York City covers 305 square miles, and the state about 47,200 square miles.
“A different combination, such as with more residential and small-scale photovoltaic, and greater use of energy efficiency, might be more realistic by 2030,” McCrone said.
To meet the target, the report’s authors suggest measures including the establishment of a Green Bank, introducing feed-in tariffs, or premium payments for small-scale energy generation, and implementing a goal for at least 5,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2020.