Renewable energy is expanding in leaps and bounds. But will it ever be possible for Canada to generate 100% of its energy from renewable sources? What about the rest of the world?
This question seems to contemplate a distant future. While solar, wind, and other renewable technology has evolved in recent years, becoming more efficient and cost-effective, fossil fuels still dominate the energy landscape.
However, some researchers are already predicting a world that runs on 100% renewable future, and new studies are showing a perspective of what that world could look like.
Powering 100% of the Planet with Renewables
One of the first major studies on this came from a team of two researchers in 2009. Professor Mark Jacobson, who studies civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, and Mark Delucchi, a researcher at the University of California, argued it was possible for the world to get to 100% renewables by the year 2030.
What would it take to meet the whole world’s energy demands with renewables? According to Jacobson and Delucchi, it would require 3.8 million large wind turbines, 90,000 solar plants, and worldwide geothermal, tidal, and solar installations.
That’s a tall order. To put it into perspective, by the end of 2016, there were just 341,320 wind turbines spinning around the world, and just 6,288 are here in Canada.
Another study, by the nonprofit Energy Watch Group and Lappeenranta University in Finland, takes a different perspective on the 100% renewable future.
This 2017 study, titled Global Energy System based on 100% Renewable Energy Power Sector, sees photovoltaic solar technology as the cornerstone of a future free of fossil fuels. The study projects that a mix of 69% solar, 19% wind, and 8% hydro, along with geothermal and other sources, could get the world to 100% renewable energy by 2050.
The study also emphasizes the importance of solar energy storage, an area that has received massive development in the years since Delucchi and Jacobson’s study in 2009. Since solar isn’t as reliable as wind or hydro, and is only available during daylight hours, storage is essential in providing a consistent and reliable electrical grid based on solar energy.
Both studies offer an interesting picture of what the world’s energy could look like in the coming decades – if we commit to undertake a widespread transition to renewables.