Monday, September 9, 2013

US Solar Will Generate As Much Power As Today's Nuclear Plants Or 20% Of America's Power By 2026

The solar tsunami described by Deutsche Bank heading to the USA is big but only the start.  In 2016, the USA will have 50,000 megawatts of solar operating and will have built 16,000 megawatts in just that year.

If one assumes that the annual solar market will grow at a 15% annual rate for 10 years after 2016, US solar capacity will increase by another approximately 360,000 megawatts in that 10 year period and reach a total of 410,000 megawatts by 2026.  That much solar would be equal to about 102 nuclear reactors or the same as the current US nuclear fleet and would likely produce close to 20% of America's electricity.

The consequences of America getting by 2026 as much power from solar as today's nuclear plants provide are enormous and good.  Pollution of our air and water would decline further. Wholesale electricity power prices will remain affordable for consumers. Coal and gas consumption for electricity would not increase much and possibly fall from current levels, depending on how much electricity demand increases.  A decline in fossil fuel consumption for power generation is especially likely, if wind power at least doubles its generating capacity by 2026.  The odds of wind doing that are high.

But will solar reach a total of 410,000 megawatts of capacity by 2026? There are two key assumptions in the analysis supporting that number. First, it assumes that the Deutsche Bank study accurately projects that the US will have 50,000 megawatts built by 2016 and will build 16,000 megawatts in just 2016.  Second, it assumes a 15% annual growth rate in solar for the following 10 years.

Is a growth rate of 15% for a decade reasonable?  It is much slower than the 33% growth rate that Deutsche Bank projects between 2015 and 2016 and much slower than what is the current solar growth rate.  If anything, a 15% growth rate is conservative.

The size of the solar wave that is hitting shore starting is simply astonishing, and it will restructure America's energy markets, boost our economy, and improve our environment. Solar-powered days are ahead!

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