What kind of energy portfolio would your students come up with if you challenged them to design a strategy for NC to be powered by 100% renewable energy by 2050? They might have fun researching the opportunities and challenges to such a future and comparing their answers!
I recently learned about The Solutions Project upon reading a blog post by UNC graduate student Justin Baumann and was intrigued to see what the renewable energy portfolio could look like for NC if it “transition[ed] to 100% wind, water, and solar (WWS) for all purposes (electricity, transportation, heating/cooling, industry).” The project’s designers include Mark Jacobson, an engineer from Stanford, and others who are motivated to “use the powerful combination of science + business + culture to accelerate the transition to 100% clean, renewable energy.”
Their projected energy mix for NC in 2050 includes almost 40% of the state’s energy demand being met by solar energy, mostly via solar photovoltaic plants, greater than 50% coming from wind energy, mostly offshore wind, and the rest (<10%) coming from hydroelectric, geothermal, wave and tidal energy. In addition to showing the projected renewable energy portfolio for each state, the infographic for each state also reveals projections for jobs created, avoided health costs and deaths from air pollution, among others.
The data underlying these plans is available as is a suite of related resources from Mark Jacobson, including a PPT titled Powering Countries, States, and the World With Wind, Water, and Sunlight that he presented at the February 2014 AAAS annual meeting and even a 10 minute video of Dr. Jacobson as a guest of David Letterman!
You may also be interested in reading, or having your students read, a 2009 Scientific American article (pdf) titled A Path to Sustainable Energy by 2030 that was co-authored by Dr. Jacobson.
If you decide to have your students explore what a WWS future would like for NC – or perhaps you already do this – I’d love to hear about it!