The United States Department of Energy has released the Solar Futures Study, detailing the significant role that solar energy will play in decarbonizing the country´s power grid
Only 15 years. That´s the time that, according to the Solar Futures Study, an inform released by the Department of Energy of the United States, will need the solar power to provide close to the half of US power. The prevision, that draws a 40% of participation of solar energy on the US electricity; a significant role that could also boost the employment of 1.500.000 people on the American soil and drive the US decarbonization challenge.
Nowadays, the United States solar energy contributes with 76 GW of installed power to the grid, something that represents the 3% of the current electricity supply. Something that is far away from the goal marked on the Solar Futures Study, that describes the need for quadrupling the yearly solar capacity additions and proive 1,000 GW of power to the grid. During 2020, the United States added 15 GW, a long way short of the declared ambition. Furthermore, by 2050, solar energy could provide a total of 1,600 GW on a zero-carbon grid – producing more electricity that consumed in the total ammount of residential and commeercial building of the US-. The forecast says that the full decarbonization of the American grid would need a total ammount of 3,000 GW of solar by 2050, due to an expected growth of the electricity consume in the transportation, buildings and industrial sectors.
Which are the key findings of the Solar Futures Study?
- A clean grid requires massive, equitable deployment of diverse, sustainable energy sources — The U.S. must install an average of 30 GW of solar capacity per year between now and 2025 and 60 GW per year from 2025-2030. The study’s modeling further shows the remainder of a carbon-free grid largely supplied by wind (36%), nuclear (11%-13%), hydroelectric (5%-6%) and biopower/geothermal (1%).
- A decarbonized power sector will create millions of cross-sector jobs – The study modeling shows that solar will employ 500,000 to 1.5 million people across the country by 2035. And overall, the clean energy transition will generate around 3 million jobs across technologies.
- New tools that increase grid flexibility, like storage and advanced inverters, as well as transmission expansion, will help to move solar energy to all pockets of America – Wind and solar combined will provide 75% of electricity by 2035 and 90% by 2050, transforming the electricity system. The deployment of storage enables more flexibility and resilience, growing from 30 GW to nearly 400 GW in 2035 and 1,700 GW in 2050. Advanced tools like grid-forming inverters, forecasting, and microgrids will play a role in maintaining the reliability and performance a renewable-dominant grid.
- A renewable-based grid will create significant health and cost savings – Reduced carbon emissions and improved air quality result in savings of $1.1 trillion to $1.7 trillion, far outweighing the additional costs incurred from transitioning to clean energy. The projected price of electricity for consumers does not rise by 2035, because the costs are fully offset by savings from technological improvements.
- Supportive decarbonization policies and advanced technologies are needed to further reduce the cost of solar energy —Without some combination of limits on carbon emissions and mechanisms to incentivize clean energy, the U.S. cannot fully decarbonize the grid—models show that grid emissions fall only 60% without policy. Continued technological advances that lower the cost of solar energy are also necessary to enable widespread solar deployment.