Solar needs to quadruple for U.S. to have carbon-free grid

The U.S. would need to quadruple the amount of solar energy it installs by 2035 if it wants to achieve a goal of decarbonizing the nation’s power grid, the Energy Department said in a study released Wednesday.

According to the study, solar energy has the potential to power 40 per cent of the nation’s electricity and employ as many as 1.5 million people by 2035.

The Energy Department said the Biden administration was not setting a new goal for solar power with the study, contrary to a report in The New York Times. Yet the analysis does provide a blueprint for rapidly deploying solar power nationwide.

“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.,” Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm said in a statement.

In 2020, the U.S. installed a record 15 gigawatts of solar power bringing the total to 76 gigawatts or three per cent of the nation’s electricity supply, the Energy Department said.

The study, which was conducted by the agency’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, found that by 2035, the U.S. would need to provide 1,000 gigawatts of solar power to achieve a 95 per cent emission-free grid. Decarbonizing the grid would require as much as 3,000 gigawatts of solar by 2050, the study said. 

“DOE’s Solar Futures Study makes it clear that we will not achieve the levels of decarbonization that we need without significant policy advances,” Abigail Ross Hopper, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said in a statement.

The study comes as President Joe Biden has called for a 100 per cent clean energy grid by 2035 and a 50 per cent economy-wide reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 as part of an effort to combat climate change. 

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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