Solar energy can rise from 3% of U.S. power generation today to 40% by 2035, and ultimately 50% by 2050, a new report from the Energy Department and National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows. Falling costs have boosted solar growth over the past decade, so reaching that 40% threshold would require less than $562 billion in federal investment along with supportive policy. For solar to comprise 50% of U.S. power, solar capacity would need to reach 1,600 gigawatts, more than the total electric consumption from residential and commercial buildings today.
The report “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,” Energy Sec. Jennifer Granholm said in a statement. Transitioning the U.S. economy to clean energy would bring an estimated economic benefit of $1.7 trillion, driven by reducing the health costs of air pollution. (Reuters, CNN, Wall Street Journal $, The Hill, CNBC, Houston Chronicle, New York Times $, Washington Post $)