Solar to Become World's Largest Power Source by 2050

2 hours ago, Jan van Eck said:

I am delighted to see a level of whimsy accrue to oilprice.com!

C'mon, Meredith, I do what everybody else does:  I eat the 23 cents, I pay, and I grumble at the cost.  That 23 cents is what it costs for rural Vermonters to kowtow to the Greenies, who insist that paying that will "save the planet."  That the plausibility of that line of thinking has never been demonstrated empirically, hardly will dissuade the fundamentalists, you know that!

Thanks for writing. 

Every time I did the math it turned out one needed a lot of trees to do the job, but that it was theoretically possible. This would only work in the summer in somewhere like Vermont. There is also the danger of killing the trees.

 

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(edited)

13 minutes ago, Meredith Poor said:

Every time I did the math it turned out one needed a lot of trees to do the job, but that it was theoretically possible. This would only work in the summer in somewhere like Vermont. There is also the danger of killing the trees.

 

The "Asian ash borer" beetle is already doing that (killing the trees).   This is a classic:  the result of trade with China.  It seems this borer beetle comes over on containerships, buried in the wooden pallets used to make for forkliftable freight.  The borer has hitched a ride over, and established itself in various places where those pallets are broken up.  Now the goods are re-palletized or pallets are forwarded out of warehouses, and when they finally arrive, they spring from the destination and into the wild. 

Here in Vermont, the ash borer is spreading during the insect-flying stage, and it migrates at about one mile per year.  The beetle digs into the tree under the bark and feeds by tunneling through the soft sapwood just underneath the bark layer.  By the time it is spotted, the tree is history.  There is no solution other than containment, so the trees get cut down, the timber sawn up on-site with portable sawmills, and the outer layers are bon-fired on location.  Some towns have managers that are freaking out, and pre-emptively cutting down all the ash trees in their town, where none are infected.  I remain aghast.  

Doing anything that ends up "killing the trees" is a total non-starter in a forested, rural State such as Vermont  (and New Hampshire, and Maine).  What this demonstrates is that pests hide in unsuspecting places.  Yes, those pallets could have been made of injection-molded plastic.  That would have been much better.  Will Mr. Trump ban imports of goods on wooden pallets?  He bloody well better!

P.S.:   some 7% of Vermont's forests are ash trees.  It is quite a hit to lose them, they are a prized hardwood.

Edited by Jan van Eck
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Further to the above post (on the ash borer pest invasion), I would note that this represent the utter failure of Federal authority.  The US Federal govt is a colossal failure.  Everywhere you look, all you see is gross, crass incompetence.  How the EPA and the US Customs people can allow, for at least the last decade, goods to enter the country packed on wooden pallets is totally beyond me.  It is known for quite a time now that the Asian ash borer beetle is burrowed inside those pallets.  There are plenty of alternatives, including using cardboard or metal skid plates, or plastic pallets, and nobody did anything.  All those guys did was pick up their paychecks.  

The Federal Government is worthless.  "Protect the country?"   Hah!  Incompetent louts, all of them.

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2 minutes ago, Jan van Eck said:

The Federal Government is worthless.  "Protect the country?"   Hah!  Incompetent louts, all of them.

All the more reason to reduce the size of government and not reward incompetency!

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1 minute ago, MUI said:

All the more reason to reduce the size of government and not reward incompetency!

There are entire departments that can easily be fired.  You can start with the so-called "Homeland Security" and their various State offspring. That will cut some 165,000 stumblebums off the payroll and saw about $70 billion.  

Let me give you an example.  There is an airport in Utica, New York with a set of fabulous runways.  It was owned by the City at one point, and I think before that it was a military base.  Along comes "homeland security" and decides that it would make a great place for "training," so they take it over.  Their idea of "training" is to pile huge mounds of sand, perhaps two stories high, along the runway, so that operators of fire trucks can "practice" driving S-turns around the mounds!  Now, is that not brilliant?  I spoke with the Commander of that new installation about this lunacy and he said to me:  "Well, we want to keep you safe!"

My response to that was:  "Sure, chum, what a great job you fellows do, weaving your patrol cars and fire trucks around mounds of sand.  I remind you that the FSB [Federal Security Bureau, the latest version of the KGB] called you guys up, said, Hey, watch out, there are two Chechens headed your way, they are hotheads, expect trouble! , and your response was - you did nothing.  And to no real surprise, a few months after that tip, those Chechens took pressure cookers in backpacks and blew up half of Boston, killing and maiming the runners and spectators of the Boston Marathon, and setting of a gigantic massive police hunt that ended with police shootouts and a final machine-gunning of some guy's boat into toothpicks, where one of the Chechens was hiding.  Great job, that!"  "So, how do your mounds of sand stack up when you guys don't even follow up on hot tips phoned in from Russia?"   

And the Homeland Security stooge commander had no answer to that. 

Totally useless.

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23 hours ago, Mark Bahner said:

You're writing about solar thermal generation, rather than photovoltaics?

I was writing specifically about the thermal stuff, although I'm no fan of PVs either..

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21 hours ago, Jan van Eck said:

Mark, I do wish to emphasize that i was not suggesting the use of these condensers.  it was a mandatory requirement for a proposed ridge-line wind farm in NE Vermont to connect to the grid, a requirement for that particular installation by the Independent System Operator. 

Okay, I get it - thanks - huge rotating flywheel.. now those I've heard of .. there are smaller versions on microgrids.. 

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On 3/6/2019 at 8:18 AM, Marina Schwarz said:

But this, too, will come with additional costs. The idea certainly sounds great but I think everyone talking about falling solar costs means panel costs. I may be wrong and I hope I am but still. I 'd love nothing more than to get a solar-panelled roof on my house and be carefree for most of the year, only... I'll need batteries as well for winter. Now battery costs are a different matter.

Battery costs are falling, also. This is why electric vehicles are predicted to be cost competitive with ICE vehicles within ten years. 

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Yes, they are but not fast enough. Ten years is a long time given the billions Big Car is throwing into EVs. These billions will need returns. Well, at least it will be an interesting ten years.

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not only solar require more space (and probably consume more energy to produce than it’ll ever make) but it’s energy decrease in value with increase grid penetration and there is 300x more waste from it compared to nuclear. Madness of crowds... 

 

https://youtu.be/ciStnd9Y2ak

 

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On 3/9/2019 at 8:39 PM, ronwagn said:

 Now I am billed as much for the delivery of the natural gas and electricity as I am for the fuel itself. 

Smart man. Managing consumption and efficiency is the best bang for most folks bucks.

A reason I like "distributed power", solar on your roof, is over time it drastically reduces the amount of mega project distribution. Yes, cost per kilowatt to produce, but think of the money saved system wide by not having to add so much supporting infrastructure. So with the right mix, location, roof pitch, orientation, and that mix varies with many variables, roof tops help with real economics on personal level.

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20 minutes ago, John Foote said:

Smart man. Managing consumption and efficiency is the best bang for most folks bucks.

A reason I like "distributed power", solar on your roof, is over time it drastically reduces the amount of mega project distribution. Yes, cost per kilowatt to produce, but think of the money saved system wide by not having to add so much supporting infrastructure. So with the right mix, location, roof pitch, orientation, and that mix varies with many variables, roof tops help with real economics on personal level.

My main objection is that homes rarely have the needed battery storage and that it would be too expensive for most people. It is now mandated for new housing in California. Their housing is already too high for the average person around the country. 

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45 minutes ago, ronwagn said:

My main objection is that homes rarely have the needed battery storage and that it would be too expensive for most people. It is now mandated for new housing in California. Their housing is already too high for the average person around the country. 

I love visiting California, what great natural beauty. But I wouldn't want to live there. And yes, I make decent living and could barely afford a rabbit hutch in the Bay Area. I've been told something like 15% of the students at San Jose State are technically homeless. Highly educated professionals basically pay a grand a month for a bed in a house with lots of roommates. How the lower end folks get by, hard to see.

I think solar is a great part of the solution, but thinking it can be the solution is silly. To do that requires massive inefficiencies.

Let people vote with their feet. Many are moving out, I think half of them to Central Texas. Of course many are moving to California as well. The state isn't all liberal either. The central part is conservative. Then there is the just leave me alone crowd in the north. 

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12 hours ago, John Foote said:

Smart man. Managing consumption and efficiency is the best bang for most folks bucks.

A reason I like "distributed power", solar on your roof, is over time it drastically reduces the amount of mega project distribution. Yes, cost per kilowatt to produce, but think of the money saved system wide by not having to add so much supporting infrastructure. So with the right mix, location, roof pitch, orientation, and that mix varies with many variables, roof tops help with real economics on personal level.

BUT, does the local power company pass those savings on?  One never knows for sure, it seems.

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11 hours ago, Dan Warnick said:

BUT, does the local power company pass those savings on?  One never knows for sure, it seems.

That's the catch, solar hurts the power companies, both sellers, and in a market like Texas with wholesale producers, many bigger producers (though helps the folks specialized in expensive short term surge capabilities).

The historical model, money is made in the generation and the distribution system is just burden. Now with a lot of distributed power, those huge lines to large production facilities (including green wind farms), you need less of them, but you need more creative switching technologies in the cities. And who wants to pay. The financial model to make it work hasn't been worked out. It might end up being monthly fees to tie to the grid. There are multiple models, but none that I have seen really work on large scale. In Texas the percentage is small enough where everyone wins kind of, go to the mandated California model, and what a mess. However the rest of the country may end up benefitting a California essentially subsidies the development of better smart grid and storage.

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12 hours ago, Dan Warnick said:

BUT, does the local power company pass those savings on?  One never knows for sure, it seems.

You have to figure the "delivery" charge, the fuel charge, and any other charges. The way I see it is that you use less power than ever and still get charged more! The whole system is a scam. In addition the taxes support the political system. The power company makes some donations and takes the credit. The customer is a powerless cuck.

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(edited)

I'm curious, has anyone bothered to derive the area of rooftops around the world? My guess is that it suffices to cover most of the energy the world needs with solar. Using rooftops does not waste space since they generally have no specific purpose that they can be used for other than the occasional landing pad. There are apparently 5.6 million commercial buildings in the US. That's just commercial. There are also about 136 million residential housing units according to Statista. How much roof space is that? I seriously doubt that we have an actual space problem for solar.

As for storage, there'll likely be tens of millions of EVs in the world by 2025 and those batteries will eventually end up becoming available for other uses such as grid storage. Their price is likely to plummet over the next 10-15 years as the market moves away from ICEVs and towards BEVs. Consider how much storage 50 million EVs entering the market annually by 2030 would have in them.

Edited by David Jones
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19 minutes ago, David Jones said:

I'm curious, has anyone bothered to derive the area of rooftops around the world? My guess is that it suffices to cover most of the energy the world needs with solar. Using rooftops does not waste space since they generally have no specific purpose that they can be used for other than the occasional landing pad. There are apparently 5.6 million commercial buildings in the US. That's just commercial. There are also about 136 million residential housing units according to Statista. How much roof space is that? I seriously doubt that we have an actual space problem for solar.

As for storage, there'll likely be tens of millions of EVs in the world by 2025 and those batteries will eventually end up becoming available for other uses such as grid storage. Their price is likely to plummet over the next 10-15 years as the market moves away from ICEVs and towards BEVs. Consider how much storage 50 million EVs entering the market annually by 2030 would have in them.

The formula for solar in the US is roughly 5Kw per person. If one person is living in a 1200 square foot house, they'll need 5Kw, if two people are living in the house, they'll need 10Kw. 10Kw / 200 watts per square meter is 50 square meters, or 550 square feet. Averages household size in the US is 2.4 persons.

Electric cars generally consume one Kwh per mile. If one drives 40 miles per day, they'll need 40Kwh. Divide by 5 hours per day, one gets 8 Kw of panels. 8000 / 200 = 40 square meters, or 440 square feet. A house with two adults, both of whom drives, would then need 880 square feet for their cars and 1100 square feet to power their house. At 2000 square feet, one might be able to fit this in a yard, but it won't fit on a house. Typically a 2000 square foot house might be multi-story, so the roof area may only be 1000 square feet.

However, residences tend to be surrounded by trees. This is one reason solar is unworkable in many residences.

Someone working in an offices generally gets a 10' x 10' cubicle or 100 square feet. 150 million workers times 100 square feet is 15 billion square feet or 1.36 billion square meters. This is 30 billion watts (30Gw) at 200 watts per square meter. However, people tend to work in multi-story buildings, so this doesn't mean much. In any case, the US consumes 400GW on a hot summer day, at peak.

Urban power users are better off just leaving it to the power company to set up wind and solar and do the engineering and number crunching. Rural users would be way better off putting in solar on their own. The first reason for this is that utility investment per capita in rural areas is far higher than in urban areas, and second is that when utilities are disrupted by storms, there's a lot more work required to get rural users back online. A third reason is becoming evident: rural power transmission lines have sparked a number of devastating and expensive fires. Some of this destruction dwarfs the cost of installing solar in every rural household in fire prone areas.

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(edited)

18 minutes ago, Meredith Poor said:

The formula for solar in the US is roughly 5Kw per person. If one person is living in a 1200 square foot house, they'll need 5Kw, if two people are living in the house, they'll need 10Kw. 10Kw / 200 watts per square meter is 50 square meters, or 550 square feet. Averages household size in the US is 2.4 persons.

Electric cars generally consume one Kwh per mile. If one drives 40 miles per day, they'll need 40Kwh. Divide by 5 hours per day, one gets 8 Kw of panels. 8000 / 200 = 40 square meters, or 440 square feet. A house with two adults, both of whom drives, would then need 880 square feet for their cars and 1100 square feet to power their house. At 2000 square feet, one might be able to fit this in a yard, but it won't fit on a house. Typically a 2000 square foot house might be multi-story, so the roof area may only be 1000 square feet.

However, residences tend to be surrounded by trees. This is one reason solar is unworkable in many residences.

Someone working in an offices generally gets a 10' x 10' cubicle or 100 square feet. 150 million workers times 100 square feet is 15 billion square feet or 1.36 billion square meters. This is 30 billion watts (30Gw) at 200 watts per square meter. However, people tend to work in multi-story buildings, so this doesn't mean much. In any case, the US consumes 400GW on a hot summer day, at peak.

Urban power users are better off just leaving it to the power company to set up wind and solar and do the engineering and number crunching. Rural users would be way better off putting in solar on their own. The first reason for this is that utility investment per capita in rural areas is far higher than in urban areas, and second is that when utilities are disrupted by storms, there's a lot more work required to get rural users back online. A third reason is becoming evident: rural power transmission lines have sparked a number of devastating and expensive fires. Some of this destruction dwarfs the cost of installing solar in every rural household in fire prone areas.

First, this calculation that you are making is not quite as useful. The most useful way would be to get an approximation of total roof square footage in the USA and then look at how much is likely to be usable for solar and compare that to the energy requirements of the country as well as look at what efficiency efforts can change in that energy consumption.

The USA needs to solve it's energy waste problem and not simply assume that a person requires 5kW of power. That is absolutely ridiculous amounts of energy. As someone who is absolutely fine with 650kWh per year and an additional 2500kWh of direct electrical heat for 60% of my heat requirements, I have to wonder how wasteful/inefficient you have to be to get to a requirement of 5kW even with intermittency. The question is whether solar can cover the energy needs with the same functionality, not whether solar can cover wasteful behaviour that brings almost no actual benefits other than the feeling of opulence.

Your EV numbers are way off btw, a Tesla Model 3 requires 16.2kWh per 100km and it consumes more than some other EVs which can hit 11kWh per 100km. That's 0.162kWh per km and 0.162*1.6=0.2592kWh per mile. That's almost 4x less that what you suggested, so 10.4kWh for 40 miles.

Edited by David Jones
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As an example, here are a few energy realities:

Electric car driven for 15000 miles annually is only about 0.26*15000=3900kWh

Heat pump technology: 1/3rd of the energy cost or less so 10000kWh of heating energy for about 3500kWh of electricity. In a well insulated house, there should be no need for more than 80kWh/m2a. Nowadays, insulation can be as good as 50kWh/m2a or even enable passive heating so for the average US home that might be something like 15000kWh or about 5000kWh with a heat pump at 80kWh/m2a. If the region needs this much heating it's unlikely that there's much need for cooling. Cooling when temperatures outside are not above 28c is a complete and utter waste of energy. In humid areas, a dehumidifier will be far more efficient, cheaper and just as good at improving comfort.

Lighting: 1000 lumen LEDs consume only about 8.5w so annual consumption for 5 hour use is about 15.5kWh per lamp. Even 10 of these would be just 155kWh. Lighting shouldn't require more than 250kWh per person annually even with those of you who like a lot of light. 155kWh is enough for more than 10000 lumen of light.

Induction technology can cook a simple mean for less than 0.5kWh. So for cooking, there should be no need for more than 2kWh per person per day. Likely less. So 730kWh per person.

These are some of the most energy intensive elements so in short, even with EVs you shouldn't need more than 1000 square feet of roof space to generate the kind of kWh necessary if the appropriate technology is used and this is todays technology, not the technology of 2050 which is bound to be considerably more efficient.

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36 minutes ago, David Jones said:

As an example, here are a few energy realities:

Electric car driven for 15000 miles annually is only about 0.26*15000=3900kWh

Heat pump technology: 1/3rd of the energy cost or less so 10000kWh of heating energy for about 3500kWh of electricity. In a well insulated house, there should be no need for more than 80kWh/m2a. Nowadays, insulation can be as good as 50kWh/m2a or even enable passive heating so for the average US home that might be something like 15000kWh or about 5000kWh with a heat pump at 80kWh/m2a. If the region needs this much heating it's unlikely that there's much need for cooling. Cooling when temperatures outside are not above 28c is a complete and utter waste of energy. In humid areas, a dehumidifier will be far more efficient, cheaper and just as good at improving comfort.

Lighting: 1000 lumen LEDs consume only about 8.5w so annual consumption for 5 hour use is about 15.5kWh per lamp. Even 10 of these would be just 155kWh. Lighting shouldn't require more than 250kWh per person annually even with those of you who like a lot of light. 155kWh is enough for more than 10000 lumen of light.

Induction technology can cook a simple mean for less than 0.5kWh. So for cooking, there should be no need for more than 2kWh per person per day. Likely less. So 730kWh per person.

These are some of the most energy intensive elements so in short, even with EVs you shouldn't need more than 1000 square feet of roof space to generate the kind of kWh necessary if the appropriate technology is used and this is todays technology, not the technology of 2050 which is bound to be considerably more efficient.

My numbers come from living in Texas and Florida, so they include a lot of cooling. I will agree that there is a lot of waste in my calculations. Replacing electric water heaters with solar water heaters would cut the power bill by a third.

Things get interesting when it's cheaper to put in the solar electricity than it is to insulate the house. This can happen in certain combinations of home size, construction materials/method, etc. The math I'm showing you is simply how I calculated costs for my residences which were/are admittedly older structures.

The original question was about roof area. My point in response is that roof area is only tangentially related to the best way to install and use solar. I agree with you 100% that we should put solar on 'disturbed earth', in my opinion however this is more focused on big box retailers, warehouses, parking lots, stadiums, and other large and relatively cheap buildings.

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1 hour ago, Meredith Poor said:

My numbers come from living in Texas and Florida, so they include a lot of cooling. I will agree that there is a lot of waste in my calculations. Replacing electric water heaters with solar water heaters would cut the power bill by a third.

Things get interesting when it's cheaper to put in the solar electricity than it is to insulate the house. This can happen in certain combinations of home size, construction materials/method, etc. The math I'm showing you is simply how I calculated costs for my residences which were/are admittedly older structures.

The original question was about roof area. My point in response is that roof area is only tangentially related to the best way to install and use solar. I agree with you 100% that we should put solar on 'disturbed earth', in my opinion however this is more focused on big box retailers, warehouses, parking lots, stadiums, and other large and relatively cheap buildings.

Definitely, basically all areas should be evaluated and if they apply as usable for solar and are not being used for anything specifically, then one should consider them (a larger survey that includes evaluation with satellite data would probably be a good idea if this hasn't been done already).

My general point is in relation to the initial discussion about the viability of solar by 2050 and in terms of basically covering a major portion of all energy needs. I think in view of already available technology such as heat pumps with major efficiency advantages to direct heating, really effective insulation and building design that could make heating/cooling almost obsolete, efficient lighting with LEDs that now have great CRI and last literally a lifetime if good quality products are purchased as well as continuously improving Lumen per Watt and the fact that EVs are also ridiculously efficient compared to ICEVs in terms of total energy necessary to cover the same distance for general use (think how far 4000kWh worth of petrol per year would get you, that's about 120 gallons), the outcome seems quite clear. If proper measures are taken to adopt these technologies, the US could run everything with less than 1/3rd it's current primary energy consumption even at the current state of technology.

From that perspective, solar would cover a much larger portion with ease even at current technological levels and this tech is improving quite rapidly. By 2050, it'll likely be more prevalent than wind energy due to it's lower intrusion factor in terms of area usage on already existing structures.

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18 hours ago, Meredith Poor said:

The formula for solar in the US is roughly 5Kw per person. If one person is living in a 1200 square foot house, they'll need 5Kw, if two people are living in the house, they'll need 10Kw. 10Kw / 200 watts per square meter is 50 square meters, or 550 square feet. Averages household size in the US is 2.4 persons.

 

What a ridiculous assertion that two people living in a house doubles the energy usage.  They never share anything that consumes energy?  The biggest energy usage in a house is air conditioning/heating.  It is basically the same cost to condition the inside of a house for one person or for two or for three or four.  Hot water usage would go up probably close to linearly.  Lighting would probably go up a little but people generally congregate in the same areas.  Energy for cooking might go up a little, but probably not much.

Also, your EV electric usage is laughable.  I drive a Volt and my car gets 4 miles/kWh in the winter and about 6 miles/kWh in the summer.  I don't think there is any EV that is as bad as you say.

BTW, we have 3 in our household and have used 6kWh/year the last two years which is how long I have owned and charged the Volt.

 

There is also just so much misinformation in this forum from people who apparently are getting their solar pv costs from 10-20 years ago.

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(edited)

On 3/6/2019 at 6:18 PM, markslawson said:

Mariana - again this is just straight nonsense. Solar by itself accounts for a minute fraction of electricity generation at the moment - a couple of percent world-wide at best. The article itself says that PVs output will have to expand 65 times to get to 40 per cent so work it out. As for the cost side of things the problem has never been the cost of the panels themselves but of putting an intermittent power source on grids run 24/7 and constantly balanced for voltage and frequency. Once you get beyond a few per cent of renewables (not counting hydro) on any network you start to run into problems, the higher the percentage the more the problems. To make this solar nirvana work we still need reliable commercial scale storage to get rid of some of the those problems and, apart from pumped hydro, which is expensive and difficult, all we have is a lot of proposals. Sorry but the report is just wishful thinking on someone's part.

You better warn some of the states/grids that have upwards of 37% non-hydro renewable energy on their grid.  I think 7 states have over 20% non-hydro RE on their systems now.  Not to mention Germany had 38% of its electricity from RE in 2018.

 

This is the growth of solar PV in the U.S. for the last 27 years

https://i0.wp.com/chesterenergyandpolicy.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Map5.png

And, this is only utility scale.  EIA adds in another 50% for small (commercial and residential).  The total in 2017 was 74TWh.  In 2018 the total was 92.5TWh.  25% growth rate in solar electricity in a year that was down because of the tariffs on solar equipment.  The ERCOT proposal pipeline is currently at 47GW of solar capacity of that 6GW has a interconnection agreement.  Last month that was only 5GW - an increase of 1GW in a month.  6GW is triple the solar ERCOT has on their system now.  So, in 3 years they will go from 1.7GW to probably 8GW of solar capacity.  FERC is showing the same thing in their proposal pipeline with over 77GW of solar proposals.

Edited by John N Denver

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