On September 8th, the Department of Energy released a report called “Solar Futures Study” that details the push for solar energy in the form of a zero-carbon electric grid. As a result, it is expected that solar energy will make up 40% of electricity generation in the United States. In this article, we will go over some key points from this report.
What is Decarbonization
Decarbonization is the process of reducing carbon dioxide, like decreasing the emissions of greenhouse gas from the burning of fossil fuels. The electric grid being pushed by the Department of Energy is expected to have 95% grid decarbonization by 2035, and 100% grid decarbonization by 2050.
The 95% grid decarbonization can be reached if the United States installs 450 GW of solar capacity by 2030. The report recommends 30 GW of solar capacity between 2021 to 2025, and then double the solar capacity in the next 5 years. For reference, there was around 15 GW of solar capacity that was installed in 2020, so the United States would have to double the solar capacity installed this year and keep up that number. Another contribution is the technological advances that will occur on the electrical grid that is said to have no impact on the electricity bill.
Solar Energy Improvements
The report states that solar energy will grow about 3% of the electricity generation each year. This will be double the amount that solar currently contributes to electricity generation. By 2050, solar will account for 45% of electricity generation in the United States, and solar will consist of 30% of residential, 14% of transportation, and 8% of industrial by 2050.
Along with the growth of solar in the electricity supply, the electric grid will allow the solar industry to expand to around 500,000 to 1.5 million people by 2035. In 2018, there were about 250,000 people in the solar industry, and the market increased by 45% in the past year. The decrease in prices for solar energy helped with the growth in the industry, and solar energy will continue to decrease in price.
Aside from decarbonization, the report states that the materials for solar will still be available due to the expected integration of material recycling. Through material recycling, it would reduce material waste and provide more jobs for manufacturing. This could help with supply chain difficulties, but the drawback would come from lax labor laws and overseas manufacturing regulations.
The land availability for solar energy won’t be an issue for the development and growth of solar energy. By 2050, ground-based solar energy is expected to take up at max 0.5% of the land in the United States. This is supported by analysis in 2008 by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory that states solar energy would need roughly 0.6% of the land in the United States to power the entire country. Therefore, solar energy never required a lot of lands, to begin with, rather the advancement is helping reduce the amount of land required.
The Solar Futures Study focuses on three possible future scenarios in solar energy with two scenarios that assume 100% decarbonization by 2050. Following the two scenarios, the solar industry would have to work hard to keep up the total solar installed in the next decades. In return, solar energy will increase in contribution to the United State’s electricity generation, and the solar industry is expected to double, which will provide more job opportunities overall. In conclusion, the future of solar will see a great reduction of carbon dioxide, advancements in solar that will incorporate material recycling, and an increase in the solar industry.
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