NREL Foresees Up to 10 Terawatts of Solar Capacity Installed by 2030
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is reporting that five to 10 terawatts of solar-electric capacity could be installed world-wide by 2030, prompting CleanTechnica correspondent Tina Casey to improbably suggest that U.S. renewables strategy is “firing on all pistons” under Donald Trump’s Department of Energy.
“Ten terawatts is a heckuva lot of electricity. It’s not enough to fulfill global demand, which hung around 15 terawatts as of 2015, but wind power and other renewables could fill in the rest,” CleanTechnica reports. “By way of comparison, last fall the International Energy Agency issued a report that pegged global renewables at only 153 gigawatts in 2015, including wind and other sources as well as solar.”
The NREL report, published this week in the journal Science in partnership with renewable energy institutes in Germany and France, attached a few conditions to the top-line numbers. They included continuing cost reductions and performance improvements in photovoltaic modules, quicker, more affordable expansion of manufacturing and installation capacity, more flexible electricity grids, increased electricity demand in transportation as well as buildings, and continuing progress on energy storage technology.
Apart from the increase in power demand, “everything else seems pretty doable,” Casey writes. PV cells are getting better and cheaper, independent of Trump policies. Solar installers are bringing “soft costs” under control, manufacturing processes are being streamlined, smart grid strategies are taking shape, and an “energy storage revolution” is on the horizon.
“The biggest question is whether or not the U.S. will put the full force of public policy behind the global effort to accelerate decarbonization,” she notes.
That last point may have been called into question this week, with the release of a memo from Energy Secretary Rick Perry calling for a review of U.S. grid strategies that might favour solar and wind over coal and nuclear generation. But Casey is optimistic, pointing to US$30 million in new DoE funding for innovative technologies and a key quote from NREL at its Industry Growth Forum in Colorado last week.
“The convergence of R&D success, entrepreneurial innovation, and a receptive investment community will accelerate advanced energy technologies into the marketplace,” the agency stated. “We are pleased to be able to leverage the convening power of the laboratory to facilitate this essential discourse.”