Sunny future for US power grid

17 September 2021 by Bailie Milton
blog author

Solar energy could power 40 percent of America’s electricity by 2035, according to a new study.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has released the Solar Futures Study which calls for massive deployment of clean energy sources to increase renewable power access throughout the country.

Solar could play a key role in decarbonizing the nation’s power grid, resulting in as much as 3,000 gigawatts (GW) of solar by 2050, which could see the employment of up to 1.5 million people and no increased electricity costs for consumers (because the costs would be fully offset by savings from technological improvements).

Last year, the US installed a record amount of solar - 15 GW - bringing the total to 76 GW, which represents 3 percent of the current electricity supply.

The latest study, conducted by DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, highlights that the US will need to quadruple its yearly solar capacity additions by 2035 and provide 1,000 GW of power to a renewable-dominant grid.

It is expected that by 2050, solar energy could provide 1,600 GW on a zero-carbon grid and produce more electricity than consumed in all residential and commercial buildings in the country.

The Solar Futures Study lays out the blueprint for reaching this goal, which will rely on strong decarbonization policies, a large-scale deployment of renewable energy sources and electrification and modernization of the grid.

Without the policies and advanced technologies in place to reduce the cost of solar energy, grid emissions will fall only 60 percent.

The US must install an average of 30 GW of solar capacity per year between now and 2025 and 60 GW per year from 2025-2030. The remainder of a carbon-free grid will be supplied by wind (36 percent), nuclear (11-13 percent), hydroelectric (5-6 percent) and biopower/geothermal (one percent).

According to the study’s modeling, solar will employ 500,000 to 1.5 million people across the country by 2035, with the clean energy transition generating around three million jobs across technologies.

The transition would see a combination of wind and solar providing three quarters of electricity by 2035 and 90 percent by 2050, with significant health and cost savings, due to improved air quality and reduced carbon emissions.

Jennifer M. Granholm, Secretary of Energy, said: “The study 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 US by 2035 and employ as many as 1.5 million people in the process.

“Achieving this bright future requires a massive and equitable deployment of renewable energy and strong decarbonization policies – exactly what is laid out in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda.”   

Bailie Milton, Senior Consultant USA said "It is intrinsically rewarding to work in an industry populated by people who are passionate about improving our quality of life. My contribution will be continuing to find the most educated, passionate, and innovative individuals to execute this plan."

​Bailie is an experienced member of Acre’s senior level search function within sustainable energy across the United States. As part of Acre’s Renewable Energy Team, Bailie leads retained mandates for Associate level hires through to senior appointments. Bailie provides subject matter expertise as she has over 4 years’ experience within the renewable energy sector.

She strategically focuses on operations, construction, and engineering for OEM’s, Subcontractors, Owners, and Utility companies.  Based in Houston, TX, Bailie earned a Human Resources degree from Louisiana State University.