Solar could provide 40% of US electricity supply by 2035 and 45% by 2050, according to a study released by the US Department of Energy (DoE) this week.
The Solar Futures Study, prepared by DoE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, looks into the role of solar energy in the move to a zero-carbon grid.
To achieve a grid dominated by renewables by 2035, US solar capacity would need to reach 1,000 GW, implying annual additions of an average of 30 GW between now and 2025 and 60 GW from 2025-2030. By 2050, solar would need to grow to 1,600 GW for a completely decarbonised grid.
Last year, the US installed a record 15 GW of solar, reaching a total of 76 GW, which accounts for 3% of the current electricity supply, DoE noted.
According to the study, a carbon-free grid would also feature 36% wind, 11%-13% nuclear, 5%-6% hydropower and 1% biopower and geothermal.
To decarbonise the entire energy system 3,000 GW of solar could be needed by 2050 due to increased electrification in the transportation, buildings and industrial sectors.
According to the study, this could be achieved with strong decarbonisation policies, massive renewable energy deployment, large-scale electrification and grid modernisation. To maintain grid reliability, storage and advanced inverters, as well as transmission expansion, will be needed.
“The study illuminates the fact that solar, our cheapest and fastest-growing source of clean energy, could produce enough electricity to power all of the homes in the U.S. by 2035 and employ as many as 1.5 million people in the process,” said energy secretary Jennifer Granholm.
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