The Future Potential of Solar Energy – Unlike fossil fuels, solar energy will never have a cost as low as the current cost of solar power. It is cheap to produce and install, and its flexibility makes it a desirable alternative for both large cities and tiny homes. It could even be suitable for the climate! Unlike fossil fuels, solar energy will never have a cost as low as the current cost of solar power. It is cheap to produce and install, and its flexibility makes it a desirable alternative for both large cities and tiny homes. It could even be suitable for the climate!
Let’s look at some of the most compelling reasons why solar energy could become the most popular alternative power source in the future. So what is stopping us now?
Land Requirements for Solar Energy
Despite recent advances in solar energy technology, the future potential of this renewable energy remains unclear. Land requirements for solar energy production remain underestimated. Although solar energy is expected to have low competition for land, it is not included in official statistical reports and integrated assessment models. This has been partly because the technology requires a lot of space to be developed and operated. However, solar energy has significant potential to become an important energy source and is a relatively inexpensive form of renewable energy.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has recently released a report on the land requirements for solar power plants. The data was compiled from existing solar facilities, and the data can help decision-makers make more informed decisions. It’s important to note that this report doesn’t compare the land requirements for various energy sources, but it does show the land needed to create solar power plants. In particular, the report shows that solar needs far more land than wind, which requires fewer resources.
Another important aspect to consider when assessing land for solar energy is the type of land that is available. Solar energy currently occupies land used for other purposes, including agriculture and forestry. Because solar energy uses large amounts of land, higher penetration rates mean more natural forest use. This can have negative consequences for other sectors, including the environment. That’s why it’s essential to make land requirements for solar energy projects realistic.
Costs of Solar Energy
The solar industry has seen tremendous growth in the last decade, driven by strong federal policies, rapidly falling costs, and increased demand for clean electricity. In 2014, solar power installed in the U.S. totaled 121 gigawatts, enough to power 23.3 million homes. By 2020, it is expected to add another 230,000 jobs and generate $33 billion in private investment. The growth rate will continue to rise, with the federal government pledging to make solar more affordable and available.
A recent study by the U.S. Department of Energy found that solar energy could provide up to 40% of our nation’s electricity and an additional 45% by 2050. This is great news for consumers because solar power is the least expensive clean energy source. In the coming decades, solar panels will cost less than half what coal and natural gas power costs, creating enough jobs to power 1.5 million homes in the U.S.
The most significant cost decline opportunity is in soft costs, such as installation labor, interconnection, and permitting. While hardware and labor costs have increased over the past decade, soft costs have remained higher than in other developed markets, largely because of U.S. government regulations and local barriers.
This may change, however, as solar technologies become cheaper. We are already seeing progress in this area, thanks to the efforts of the Solar Energy Technologies Office and the Sunshot Initiative. As a result, the cost of utility-scale solar photovoltaic power dropped from $0.28 in 2010 to $0.06 in 2017.
Impact of Land Transformation on Solar Energy
In a recent study, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identified contaminated brownfields as potential sites for solar projects. The program also included a screening process to ensure that these sites could be developed for solar energy. According to the EPA, there are approximately 17,000 square miles of contaminated brownfields across the U.S., including many former industrial sites near electrical transmission facilities. There are also up to 80,000 abandoned mine lands across the country, and a recent study found that at least one-third of them have been converted into solar projects.
Many studies have examined the relationship between land use and solar energy development, comparing the amount of land transformed by the technologies used to produce power. While solar energy power generation requires a relatively small percentage of uncultivable land, it is comparable to coal, nuclear energy, and other fossil fuels. In India, for example, only 3.1% of uncultivable land is transformed into solar energy, while coal and nuclear power require much larger land.
Utility-scale solar projects have a considerable footprint and can threaten nearby communities’ natural habitat and cultural resources. Some projects have already resulted in conflicts with local communities, and others have damaged cultural and spiritually significant sites. Many have also altered local ecological habitats. The Western Solar Plan1 attempts to steer solar projects away from conflict zones, but the sprawl onto “green fields” is still a growing problem.