Solar power accounted for 3% of U.S. electricity generation from all sources in 2020. Now, the Energy Department’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts that solar generation will make up 14% of the U.S. total in 2035 and 20% in 2050.
The numbers include electricity generated from both utility-scale (those of 1 MWt or more generating capacity) and small-scale (less than 1 MW) solar facilities in the electric power, residential, commercial, and industrial sectors.
EIA said that increases in small-scale solar, particularly in the commercial and residential sectors, drove much of the early growth in U.S. solar electricity net generation. In 2011, small-scale solar accounted for 68% of total U.S. solar electricity net generation. However, utility-scale solar generation increased substantially during the past decade as average construction costs for solar power plants fell.
In its long-term projections, EIA said the electric power sector will continue to produce the most solar generation, increasing from 68% of total solar generation in 2020 to 78% in 2050. The growing share of utility-scale generation is due in part to the availability of a 10% Investment Tax Credit (ITC) after 2023; in contrast, the ITC for small-scale solar has expired.
In one scenario in which natural gas prices were modeled to be higher than in baseline assumptions, EIA said that solar generation can reach as much as 25% of total generation by mid-century. In another case in which installed costs of renewables are lower than in the baseline scenario, solar generation was forecast to make up 27% of total generation by 2050.
Last spring, BloombergNEF published a forecast that said solar was poised to see five years of record-setting large-scale capacity additions. It predicted that the U.S. more than 20 GW of large scale solar each year. It said that both large- and small-scale solar will grow during the years that tax credit extensions are available.
Over the coming decade, customer-sited solar capacity were forecast to add on average more than 8 GW a year. Over one-third of all new systems were expected to be built in California.
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This projection is totally bogus. DOE apparently does not read PV and notices the huge number of new projects/utility revamps/etc.. This is a flat line projection and it will go exponential within a few years due to the simple fact that installing solar locally and creating mini-grids will be the least expensive power. And more importantly, tell most big utilities to kiss-off.
Another example why EIA is always wrong on predictions, they just extend current trends which never happens as trends change.
In 3 yrs one will by a plug and play solar, battery system for just $1k/kw or about $.05/kwh RETAIL for homes, buildings.
So as utilities build out RE then solar/small wind, CSP, CHP homes, buildings, businesses and EVs with V2G, will just crowd out FF, then other grid power.
So on generation by 2050 over 50% will be solar as universally available, cheap.
I have many questions about the projection. My two main concerns are:
(1) Look at the linear growth in solar after 2025. That projection agrees with zero growth in installation capacity. If the US has linear growth in installation capacity, then we see exponential growth in annual installation. Just math folks. From what I’ve read, installers expect a continued boom, so I sense a contradiction.
(2) Look at the linear increase in total electricity generation. Is there an assumption of no increase in efficiency embedded there? If we forecast linear growth in GDP while electricity needed per unit of GDP decreases, then the forecast for energy demand will flatten out.
I’m with Ralph, although I respect EIA’s historical mission of projecting current trends, rather than using any imagination. It is a consistent starting place for discussions, even if it misses a lot of things.
But we might want to save this article just to see how wrong it winds up being. I thought I heard a news story about wind and solar development exploding. It is growing fast, but apparently along the lines of last year, not a real explosion. But last year’s solar capacity additions increased the total 23%. If that were continued for 19 years it would exceed total U.S. electricity consumption. 2040. It’s over 20% in ten years.
We are going to need nearly double the current total generation by 2050, more or less depending on whether cheap electricity stimulates the economy, or how fast the nuclear plants retire, or a few other obvious important variables.
Did oil industry make this study?
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