Larry Cantwell, the supervisor of East Hampton on Long Island, N.Y., sat back the other day with satisfaction about the town’s plan to have 100% of its electricity come from renewable energy—safe, clean, green power—by 2020.
That’s just four years away!
In 2014, East Hampton became the first municipality on the East Coast to adopt a 100% renewable energy goal. Other governments in the U.S.—among them cities such as San Francisco—have done the same, as have nations around the globe. And, it’s something that can be done all over the world.
On Long Island, going to green energy is especially meaningful because seven to eleven nuclear power plants were planned for it in the 1960s and 70s. In the parlance of nuclear promoters at the time, Long Island was to become a “nuclear park.”
One nuclear plant was completed, Shoreham Nuclear Power Station 1, but it was stopped from going into commercial operation and subsequently abandoned in the face of grassroots public opposition and actions by local and New York State governments.
When his town board in 2014 adopted—unanimously—a resolution to have all the town’s electricity come from renewable sources, Mr. Cantwell said: “Making the switch to clean energy is just the right thing to do, both for the environment and for keeping more money in the local economy and creating jobs here.”
At East Hampton Town Hall recently he commented: “We’re doing it!”
East Hampton is to meet its 100% renewable energy goal through solar energy, from panels on town-owned land and rooftops, and from wind energy from off-shore wind turbines like those Rhode Island-based Deepwater Wind is now completing east of the town in the ocean near Block Island.
In areas around the nation and world, there would be different mixes for implementing 100% renewable energy. The mix depends on energy resources, although solar power runs through all green-energy menus.
An energy revolution is underway.
“The World Can Transition to 100% Clean, Renewable Energy,” declares the website of The Solutions Project headquartered California. “Together ,” it continues, “we can build a stronger economy, healthier families, and a more secure future. 100% clean is 100% possible. Join us.” The website is full of information on 100% renewable energy programs happening. Among the articles: “139 Countries Could Be 100% Renewable by 2050.” The Solutions Project, supported by leading U.S. foundations including the Park Foundation, last month launched “The Fighter Fund, a new grant-making program for community-based groups on the front lines of the fight for clean energy and climate justice.”
And a fight is occurring. “Holding Clean Energy Hostage,” was the title of an article last month by Cathy Kunkel of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis and M.V. Ramana of the Program on Science and Global Security at Princeton University in the journal Reason in Revolt. Companies tied to “traditional” energy—coal, oil, gas and nuclear—seek to block “renewable energy every step of the way.”
The sun does not send a bill. Neither does the wind. Once the infrastructure for renewable energy is built, energy flows—freely. And this threatens the old power order.
But there are new companies—like Deepwater Wind—making huge advances in renewable energy technologies that the old order can’t put a lid on.
For example, a new firm, Insolight, has just announced development of solar photovoltaic panels with 36% efficiency. The most advanced solar panels for use in space have 25% efficiency. Several years ago the efficiency of solar panels was measured in single digits. Now most are 18% to 20%, and the SunPower company last year began producing panels with 24% “world record” efficiency. With 36% efficiency, less space for panels is needed. Meanwhile, the price of solar panels has gone down dramatically.
Regarding wind, the United Kingdom recently gave the go-ahead for what’s to be the world’s largest offshore wind farm. This August 7, Scottish wind turbines generated “the total amount of electricity used by every home and business” in Scotland, reported the U.K. newspaper The Independent.
There are big advances in energy storage—to end criticism of renewable energy being intermittent. “Holy Grail of Energy Policy in Sight as Battery Technology Smashes the Old Order,” was the headline last month in another U.K. newspaper The Telegraph.
“There’s enough wind and solar to power the world,” said Bill Nye, the “Science Guy,” on CNN last month. And there are other renewable sources including those involving water—tidal power and wave power as we see daily on Long Island, both now being tapped around the world.
East Hampton by “setting these bold renewable energy goals,” says Gordian Raacke, executive director of Renewable Energy Long Island, is “a visionary leader in the fight against climate change and an example of how we can all become part of the solution.”
The round-the-world flight of the solar-powered airplane Solar Impulse, completed in July, and, back to Long Island, the boat Novela skippered by Long Island solar power pioneer Gary Minnick, arriving in Riverhead a week earlier, powered by the sun in a journey from Florida, are symbols of a the potentially bright new energy future.