This question is becoming a key cornerstone in our prediction for the health and prosperity of the future United States of America. Experts are beginning to predict that our worldwide sources for crude oil will have peaked in production by 2050 at the latest and the production quality will then be declining. If we stay dependent on this declining resource we will forever be held hostage to the Middle East oil producing countries. Today, each man, woman and child in the USA (300,000,000 citizens) on the average sends $40.00 per day or a total of $500,000,000,000.
00 per year (oil priced at $100.00 per barrel) to the oil producing countries in order to maintain our addiction to fossil fuels. There are no indications that the price for crude oil will be declining significantly. We will have market fluctuations but the overall trend is a continuing increase in the price of a barrel of crude oil. We, in the US, need to retain these dollars on our shores and break the hostage chains of crude oil from the Middle East.
If this is accomplished then we can determine the future health and prosperity of the USA. In the January 2008 issue of Scientific American Magazine, Ken Seibel, James Mason and Vassals Fthenakis published an article " A Solar Grand Plan". They proposed that by 2050 solar power could end U.S. dependence on foreign oil and slash greenhouse gas emissions. They propose that a vast area of photovoltaic cell be erected in the Southwest.
Their proposal would store excess daytime energy in underground caverns to be tapped during nighttime hours. A direct-current power transmission would have to be built to deliver this power across the USA. They estimated that $420 billion in government subsidies from 2011 to 2050 would be require to fund this project. They estimated that this proposal could supply 69 percent of the U.S. electricity and 35 percent of its total energy by 2050.
On the first reading this article sounded great but far reaching. Where could we get the leadership to accomplish this task? In the short period between the January article and late February two major announcements leads us to embrace "A Solar Grand Plan" as a major component to reduce our fossil fuel payments to the Middle East . The first event is the announcement from the Associated Press entitled "Can Arizona becomes the Persian Gulf of Solar Energy?" The Spanish company Abingdon Solar and Arizona Public Service Company are planning to take 3 square miles of desert southwest of Phoenix and turn them into one of the largest solar power plants in the world. "Their proposal would yield a 280 MW capacity electrical generating plant.This is accomplished on a 3 square miles of desert.
The energy plant would supply electricity to 70,000 homes. The Knowledge Problem Blog extroplated the available data to estimate future generation potentials. Three square miles yields a 280 MW capacity plant. Using the 70,000 homes number, a little calculation gives a 38 percent capacity factor for the plant, so that implies the plant will produce about 932,000 MHz per year.
If all of the state's electric power needs were generated using similar technologies and assuming constant economies of scale, it would take about 236 square miles (or about 1.2 percent of the land within the state) to accommodate the necessary solar power plants. A further calculation estimates that 36,000 square miles of land would be require generating the U.
S.electrical needs. The American Scientific article estimates that there are 250, 000 square miles of land in the Southwest that is suitable for the use of solar generation. How do the residents of Arizona feel about this land use potential? Arizona governor Janet Napolitano has been quoted as saying, "There is no reason that Arizona should not be the Persian Gulf of solar energy." Arizona passed state laws to support solar energy starting in 2003.
Pilot programs were approved to accelerate the market development for distributed PV installations in schools, public buildings, and individual residential and small business establishments. The support for these programs has continued to strengthen. It is viewed as a major job producing effort, a project to maintain reasonable electrical costs and the major benefit of non polluting energy. The second major announcement is the desire of Abu Dhabi to spend $15 billion makes the oil-rich emirate an epicenter of green technology.
Called the Masdar Initiative, it's best known for plans to build Masdar City, a "zero-carbon, zero-waste" urban center. Actually, the far range objective of the Masdar Initiative is to establish the Silicon Valley of renewable solar energy in Abu Dhabi. The intent is to cover the whole value chain - from research to labs to manufacturing to the deployment of technologies. To that end, Masdar is collaborating with European and U.S.
universities, including MIT and Columbia, to develop a research institute. We in the US should find condolence that the $500,000,000,000.00 dollars that we are sending to the Middle East are being spent widely. A country that is sitting on an oil rich desert is building solar power plant to free themselves of the escalating cost of fossil fuels and be "zero-carbon, zero-waste" urban center. If the United States continues to stay addicted to the oil of the Middle East we will be paying with inflating costs as the oil fields deplete.
So Yes to the question "Can the USA Be Fossil Fuels Independent by 2050?". But, we will require strong leadership with the visions being demonstrated by Arizona and Abu Dhabi The leadership will have to politically lead our congress to continue the tax incentives to adopt renewable energies credits. Fossil fuels independence will require solar, wind, geothermal and nuclear technologies which other countries are demonstrating.
I have a BS and MS in Metallurgical Engineering. Thirty six years spent in the development of semiconductors. Business experience in start up business plan. Currently, an oyster farmer and interested in helping the environment by deploying solar energy. Visit my Blog, http://environmentalhelp.typepad.com/ for continued information on renewable energy E Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org