The Answers part 1 - MINDSET
The first part of the solution involves people adjusting their mindset. Main points include:
 
GET REAL ABOUT AE OPTIONS - We must be hardnosed and realistic about the benefits and drawbacks of each technology. Learn what these are. There are true believers and nay-sayers for each technology. The truth is usually somewhere in between.
 
THERE IS NO ONE MAGIC BULLET - it will take a broad spectrum of technologies  to make a difference. This includes things like improving the efficiency of our cars and homes (so we don't waste so much energy) and reducing the environmental impact of traditional sources (such as coal) as well as the sexier new technologies like photo-voltaics and fuel cells. People tend to get hung up looking for one technology that will solve everything. Don't turn up your nose at anything that can provide 1% of the solution.
 
THEY WON'T BE CHEAP - The wind and the sun are free but they are very spread out and the machinery to harvest the energy is NOT free. Beware people promising free energy.
 
THEY WILL HAVE SIGNIFICANT ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT - People often seem to think that "alternate energy" automatically means "zero environmental impact". When done on the scale needed to replace a 1000 megawatt nuclear plant, ANY form of AE (wind, solar, bio-fuel) is going to take a LOT of land area with definite side effects.
 
WE MUST IMPROVE EXISTING TECHNOLOGIES - taking the electrical system as an example, we have 850,000 megawatts of existing generating capacity. 52% is coal, 20% is nuclear. Even using the most optimistic projections they are not going to be replaced for a long time. (In fact, even aggressive introduction of solar/wind electrical generating capacity is unlikely to happen fast enough to offset the retirement of our existing nuclear plants). We better learn to improve coal/nuclear/hydro and mitigate the drawbacks as best we can.
 
THERE IS NO FREE LUNCH - We need to start implementing some of these solutions even though they are NOT perfect. Waiting for some technology that has NO negative consequences is unrealistic.
 
You have to support alternate energy in REALITY, not just theory. This means accepting wind farms, solar farms, biomass projects, better transmission lines and the like in YOUR part of the country.
This section summarizes my opinions about various technology options:
 
EFFICIENCY IS THE ONLY "CHEAP ENERGY" - There are people who will spend $25,000 getting solar panels put on the roof but won't spend $250 to weather strip their windows. They do not understand where the big payback actually lies. The majority of the energy we consume is wasted. Capturing a part of the energy that currently serves no useful purpose is the biggest win.
 
"GREEN BUILDINGS" CAN BE EFFECTIVE - a well designed home or office with proper insulation, heat recovery systems and high efficency lighting can greatly reduce energy consumption with a modest additional initial cost that is more than recovered over the life of the building. In this context, passive solar can be quite useful, although it is often undervalued because in never shows up on the power grid.
 
CARS CAN BE MORE EFFICIENT WITHOUT ANY MAGIC - maybe someday we will be driving those hydrogen powered fuel cell cars everyone talks about. In the meantime, use of stronger/lighter materials, hybrid drivetrains and new clean diesel engines has the potential for large increases in gas mileage through better use of existing technologies.
 
WIND AND SOLAR POWER ARE BECOMING COMPETITIVE - for limited applications they are cost effective now. Assuming a continued decline in manufacturing costs, they will be cost effective for much broader application. Properly targeted financial incentives (tax credits and the like) can help pump volume and make this happen sooner. 
 
BUT ENERGY STORAGE IS KEY - The wind and the sun are intermittent. Energy storage to cover the dry spells may cost much more than the wind or solar generators themselves. Biofuel, hydrogen and superbatteries can all provide some storage. Until someone perfects large scale energy storage that is both high efficiency and low cost, wind and solar will be limited to a modest percentage of our power needs.
 
BIOFUELS CAN BE WORTH WHILE - again, utilizing resources currently going to waste is the biggest win. Using methane from landfills and agricultural waste for electricity can be cost effective.  Growing crops primarily for energy purposes is promising but you have to be careful with energy input as well as environmental and land use issues. This is usually carbon neutral since burning the biofuel releases carbon that is pulled out of the air by the next crop.
 
HYDROGEN IS NOT AN ENERGY SOURCE - it is a storage technology. It has a lot of potential, particularly if fuel cells can really be perfected. But there are questions about the efficiency of producing hydrogen from various primary sources and more questions about how to transport large amounts conveniently and safely.
 
 
The Answers part 2 - TECHNOLOGY OPTIONS
The grandiose schemes of powering the entire country with -> insert your favorite technology here <- in just a few years is not going to happen. The scale of the infrastructure is just too big and there doesn't seem to be any one technology up to the task. We have to start with more modest goals using a wide variety of technologies.
 
I say that for the next 10 years we should aim at 10% solutions. In many areas 10% seems a safe, realistic number that is big enough to have real impact but not so big as to risk destablizing existing systems. Too high a percentage of wind power, for example, is a real stability problem for the electrical grid, but 10% is probably OK. What might this look like?
 
Electricity: aim at a mix of generating capacity that includes 10% wind, 10% solar and 10% biomass (wood, switch grass, bio methane). Natural gas fired capacity will continue to increase. This is the lowest carbon impact of the fossile fuels, but we will probably have to start importing an increasing percentage of our natural gas over time. A gradual switch to fuel cells run with hydrogen from natural gas has the potential to significantly decrease the fuel used per kw-hr due to the improved efficiency of fuel cells. We probably need to invest in a new generation of safer nuclear plants (pebble bed perhaps?). This is not popular in some quarters, but when talking base load capacity it is either new nuclear plants or more coal plants for quite a while.
 
CARS: Assuming we invest in energy efficient biofuel processes, most existing vehicles can run on gas with 10% ethanol or diesel with 10% vegetable oil. Hybrids and clean diesels might each be 10% of the market. If the latest hype about super batteries pans out, true electric cars might finally become practical for another 10% of the market.
 
BUILDINGS: at least 10% of our homes can have passive solar in a manner that is cost effective. The more practical "green building" techniques can often reduce energy by 10%. Switching to efficient lighting can reduce energy consumption by 10%.
 
Get the 10% idea? Look for it in as many places as possible.
Kevin's Alternate Energy Answers
The Future part 1 - the 10% Solution
We may never see the total solution in our lifetime. Still, it is worth while trying to imagine what it might look like so that we can at least head in that direction. One problem is that when you look 50 or 100 years down the road, almost any technology may become feasible. Nuclear power was total fantasy 70 years ago. You can't completely rule out some radical new technology coming along and changing everything, but you can assign some probablities and make an educated guess.
 
ENERGY SOURCES:
We know about a few possible energy sources that might become practical in 50 years. I rate nuclear fusion (the conventional hot kind) at about a 50% probability. I rate cold fusion, orbiting solar power satelites, zero point energy, etc at less then 5% probability (can't say never, but not likely).
 
The more predictable line of development is continued improvement of existing technologies. Imagine a really cheap photo-voltaic solar panel that turns 50% of the available solar energy into electricity. Or
panels of engineered material that uses 20% of solar energy to directly split hydrogen from water.
 
ENERGY STORAGE:
As mentioned before, energy storage is the key to fully utilizing wind and solar energy. The capability to store large amounts of energy at a reasonable cost is required before these intermittent sources can start to replace base load electric generating capacity (which is currently mostly coal or nuclear). My wish list includes:
 
1) a super battery with 10 times the energy to weight ratio of the standard lead-acid battery, high charge and discharge rates, many thousands of cycles with little degradation, minimal environmental impact
 
2) long life, compact fuel cells with a cost of no more than $50 per kw.
 
3) greatly improved biofuel production with high energy density per acre and a high energy payback. This might involve genetic engineering of plants or some combination of bio-engineering and nano-technology that mimics biological processes on an industial scale.
 
 
These are the kind of things that need to happen before you can really run most of the country on Alternate Energy.
 
To be continued.....
 
The Future part 2 - the Total Solution