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Turbines at the Marble River wind farm in Clinton, NY. Photo: Sarah Harris
Turbines at the Marble River wind farm in Clinton, NY. Photo: Sarah Harris

Report: NY's energy could near 100% renewable by 2030

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A recent study from Cornell and Stanford universities outlines a scenario that would see New York State generating all its energy from renewable sources by year 2030.

Cornell University Professor Tony Ingraffea co-authored the study. The basic question researchers considered was whether New York could do without energy from fossil fuels in the near future. The answer, he says, is yes.

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"The point we're trying to make in the paper is the slow part was 10 years ago. 40 percent of all new electricity generation in the United States in 2012 came from wind and solar. The last month 2012, the first month of 2013, 100 percent of all new electricity generation in the United States came from renewable."

Ingraffea says that the wind, water, sunlight combination is not the future, but the present. He says the technologies available now are profitable, and have the abiilty to create new jobs.

But the study argues that current regulations and policies are slowing down the conversion from fossil fuels, to electricity from renewable sources.

Case in point: the limited support renewables receive when compared with the hefty subsidies fossil fuels enjoy.

"What people don't understand is that the fossil fuel industry receives indirect subsidies in the form of what is called externalized costs. Those are costs paid by the consumer without knowing it, because fossil fuels when they're burned do produce air pollution, particulate matter. When we're paying our health insurance we are paying for the increased morbidity and mortality."

Currently, renewable sources account for about 15 percent of the state's energy infrastructure.

 Ingraffea says that share would rise, eventually to 100 percent, with the political support and private investment outlined in the study.

The switch to renewable generation would also mean revamping the distribution system:

"Everybody knows that we have a very fragile electrical grid in the country and it has to be upgraded, so if you want to upgrade it, you want to upgrade it to the traditional sources of fossil fuel electricity? Which obviously over time are going to phase out, or do you just want to get it over with."

According to a cooperative extension press release, the plan effectively pays for the new energy infrastructure over 15 years by reducing air-pollution costs to the state and global warming costs to the U.S. from state emissions. Annual electricity sales would reduce the payback time to about 10 years.

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