Solar power could provide 10% of US energy: report

Mar 10, 2010
Solar panels cover the roof of a Sam's Club store in 2009 in Glendora, California. The United States could source 10 percent of its electricity from solar power by 2030, a report said Tuesday, winning support from a US lawmaker who wants to boost the number of US solar panels.

The United States could source 10 percent of its electricity from solar power by 2030, a report said Tuesday, winning support from a US lawmaker who wants to boost the number of US solar panels.

The report, produced by the independent environmental group Environment America, was presented to Congress with backing from Senator Bernie Sanders who in February introduced legislation to install 10 million across the United States within a decade.

Sanders praised the report, which said the United States could get 10 percent of its from by 2030, up from just 0.1 percent in 2008, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Sanders's bill, which has gained the support of several other Democratic senators, proposes "rebates for the purchase and installation of an additional 10,000,000 solar roofs... by 2019."

"At a time when we spend 350 billion dollars importing oil from Saudi Arabia and other countries every year, the must move away from foreign oil to energy independence," Sanders told a press conference Tuesday.

The legislation introduced by Sanders, who heads a sub-committee on green jobs, would offer a rebate of 1.75 dollars per watt of installed capacity in 2010, an offer that would fall to 0.25 dollars per watt by 2019.

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User comments : 22

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christian_physicist
2.5 / 5 (10) Mar 10, 2010
"'At a time when we spend 350 billion dollars importing oil from Saudi Arabia and other countries every year, the United States must move away from foreign oil to energy independence,' Sanders told a press conference Tuesday."

Says the guy who does everything he can to keep the US from producing more oil. Methinks you have another motivation, Sanders.
deatopmg
2.6 / 5 (13) Mar 10, 2010
"Solar power could provide 10% of US energy: report"

At what cost to the environment?? and to the TAX PAYER!??

Another poorly thought out and analyzed pipe dream from Sanders. But for socialists like Bernie, only the concepts are important, the facts must be wrong and therefore twisted to fit those concepts. And WE end up paying for their inability or unwillingness to think rationally.
Nemo
4 / 5 (1) Mar 10, 2010
IF efficiency of cells is doubled that goes to 20%?
Genep34
2.8 / 5 (4) Mar 10, 2010
i guess there are even trolls on here.

imagine any thinking man trying to put oil in front of solar power - i can't.
solar2030
3 / 5 (5) Mar 10, 2010
only 10% ? , in 2030 they'll be hunded times more efficient and a lot cheaper (exponetial growth of technology), advances in material science, computer simulations, nanotechnology and many many more..
I my opinion everybody will have one in some form ( in hats, on cars, houses, buildings, large arrays on some deserts)...
Thet don't think(Environment America) in exponetial way....
3432682
3.5 / 5 (8) Mar 10, 2010
Building solar panels before they are made more efficient is stupid; stupid is the specialty of socialists; Bernie Sanders is a socialist. I support a reasonable amount of solar research, but building plants now is pure waste.
david_42
3.7 / 5 (7) Mar 10, 2010
"in 2030 they'll be hunded times more efficient"

Not even possible in theory. Production cells run 10-15%. Tripling efficiency might be possible.
Glyndwr
2.3 / 5 (9) Mar 10, 2010
Efficiency could double every 2 years given adequate funding and priority......its a matter of those two.
chelbos
5 / 5 (1) Mar 10, 2010
One thing is forgotten here ...
10% from current consumption or from 2030 consumption?
I believe is from current consumption meaning by 2030 flowing the exponential growth will actually mean 3% ...
jonnyboy
1 / 5 (5) Mar 10, 2010
back of the envelope scratching says that this rebate costs the US govt (this means taxpayers for all you liberals that think the government is where money comes from)
667.8 Trillion dollars (yes I said trillion). Way to go Bernie, another well though out plan.
PinkElephant
2 / 5 (1) Mar 10, 2010
...the United States must move away from foreign oil to energy independence," Sanders told a press conference Tuesday.
Oil supplies only 1% of electricity generation in U.S. Solar energy is good and all, but it bears no relation to our dependence on foreign oil.
PinkElephant
5 / 5 (4) Mar 10, 2010
@jonnyboy,
back of the envelope scratching says that this rebate costs the US govt ... 667.8 Trillion dollars (yes I said trillion)
You should fire the chicken you had scratching your envelope. For incompetence at basic math.

Total U.S. generated electricity over 2008: 4.1x10^15 Wh.

http://tonto.eia....d_states

That's an average of about 4.7x10^11 W/h, as of 2008. 10% of that would be 4.7x10^10 W/h. Let's say by 2030 this grows (at 3% a year, over 20 years) to 8.5x10^10 W/h.

Let's assume the panels, on average, produce nameplate power only 4 hours per day, and no power over the remaining 20 hours. So to fulfill the 10% effective requirement, we'll need 6 times the nameplate wattage, thus targetting 5.1x10^11 W of installed capacity.

The first 50% is subsidized at $1.75/W, requiring $450 Billion over 9 years: $50 Billion annually. The remainder, at $0.25/W, requires $5.8 Billion/year, starting in 2019.
trekgeek1
5 / 5 (4) Mar 10, 2010
"Building solar panels before they are made more efficient is stupid"

By that logic we shouldn't build computers yet because the chips will be faster in a couple of years. You have to start somewhere, sometime. I agree that we need higher efficiency, but the panels won't be built all at once. Different solar farms will probably implement different technologies depending on when they were built.
xamien
4.7 / 5 (3) Mar 11, 2010
I remain unimpressed with those who resort to name-calling, especially when their comments in this regard to fail to show any understanding of what the name means. Go read some books, maybe take a class, instead of going around and calling people "socialists" like it's anything other than a neutral word.
That having been said, I like the idea Sanders is trying to go for, but I think he fails to understand the curve of technology development and how it would match up to financial viability. There's simply too many variables to predict such results, especially in the space of 20 years, which is a lot for this particular industry, given its rapid pace of growth.
DaveMart
4.5 / 5 (2) Mar 11, 2010
The problem with these 'Grand Plans' when they rely on solar power or 'renewables is that they fail to take into account the location limits and intermittency of the source.
Using the figures above that you might need a build of around 6 times in installed capacity to generate the average output, that is fine to cover diurnal variability.
Even as far south as the Mohave desert though the killer is annual variability, so that in winter you only get around 30% of they summer solar incidence.
Obviously matters are a great deal worse in almost all of the US, where for instance relatively high levels of cloud cover in the South East reduce the output, and much, much worse in Michigan, where the real problem shows itself - the biggest load is to cope with the cold in winter, when the sun throughout the US is weakest.
The usual response from is to do hand waving, and conjure up vast transmission grids to take the power north - that costs money which are never costed in the 'proposals'.
DaveMart
not rated yet Mar 11, 2010
The average of 10% of electricity would vary from ~6% to ~18% of the total electricity for the country.
Alternatively you could have a very high penetration of solar in the South West, so the impact on the grid would be even greater.
What all this means is that you have to burn vast quantities of natural gas to cover for the intermittency of solar, so this is a fancy expensive way to continue to rely absolutely on fossil fuels.
Doing things this way means that resources which can properly cope and move on from fossil fuels are killed ie nuclear.

Solar is fine for sunny areas to produce peak electricity.
It is nonsensical for providing anything like 10% of electricity across most of the US.
John_balls
2.5 / 5 (4) Mar 11, 2010
2030, is he kidding me?? walmart,homedeopot,target and lowes will all be carrying them in the next 5 years. I think that this is a short sighted projection. In 5 years it will economically on par with fossil fuels.
karmal64
not rated yet Mar 11, 2010
Strange how no matter what the decade, no matter what the proposed alternative-energy technology, they're always presented as something not viable for at least 20 to 30 years from that decade.
PinkElephant
not rated yet Mar 11, 2010
@DaveMart,
...the killer is annual variability, so that in winter you only get around 30% of they summer solar incidence.
One rather simple refinement might be an ability to alter the tilt of the panels. One doesn't necessarily need to actively track the Sun; but adjusting the panel tilt once a week to track the declination of zenith would already do wonders. Though from this to active tracking (or even just hourly adjustments), is a relatively short trip.
...much worse in Michigan...
One would imagine Michigan is rather better suited for wind power -- particularly in winter -- with the Lake Effect and all.
...you have to burn vast quantities of natural gas to cover for the intermittency of solar...
Or hydrolyze water during peak production, then reverse the process when production drops off... Or use inertial storage. Or pumped storage. Or batteries. Or...

Thing is, these won't be widely developed or deployed until there's a need for them: chicken and egg.
DaveMart
1 / 5 (1) Mar 12, 2010
@Pink Elephant:
Yeah, technically you can do nearly anything.
That is all a very different matter to doing it at any affordable cost.
Tilting mirrors: Yep, adding to the cost and complexity.
The ~30% figure of annual variance is generous, and in practice would be reached hardly anywhere - cloud cover, most places are north of the Mohave, etc.
As for storing the energy in the summer for the winter, run through the inefficiencies involved in converting the energy to liquid fuels (hydrogen would escape long before the end of the winter) let alone carrying charges for storage and the utter impracticality is plain.

All of the efforts to use widely dispersed low energy density location specific technologies to power an industrial society are simply perverse.
We already know how to do it with low carbon emissions.
It is called nuclear power.
That can be used anywhere, is a million times as dense as fossil fuels, and can be extracted effectively forever from the sea at a cost of $300kg.
PinkElephant
5 / 5 (1) Mar 12, 2010
Tilting mirrors: Yep, adding to the cost and complexity.
Not mirrors, panels. No precise or continuous alignment necessary, unlike with parabolic collectors.
cloud cover, most places are north of the Mohave, etc.
I already accounted for that with the 6:1 deployment ratio...
storing the energy in the summer for the winter
I wasn't suggesting that. I was talking only of smoothing out diurnal cycles and weather patterns.

Base load can also be reduced dramatically with simple things like better insulation, and geothermal heat pumps for house heating/cooling.

Seasonally (e.g. over the 3 or 4 worst winter months), you can also bring up additional base load (like natural gas) as required -- as long as you aren't cycling it on-off on a daily basis.
All of the efforts to use widely dispersed low energy density location specific technologies to power an industrial society are simply perverse.
I see such a grid as robust and multiply-redundant, much like the Internet.
lengould100
5 / 5 (2) Mar 15, 2010
Davemart claims "Even as far south as the Mohave desert though the killer is annual variability, so that in winter you only get around 30% of they summer solar incidence."

Where's you get the 30% figure from? Clearly not any NREL solar maps, which indicate typical variations of perhaps

eg. Southern California August 7.0 kwh/sq m / day January 4.0 kwh/ sq m / day.

Michigan August 4.5 kwh/sq m / day January 2.5 kwh / sq m / day.

That's more like "in winter you only get around 55%". Also, install recommendations are to tilt the axis of fixed installations somewhat more than enough to compensate for latitude, meaning the cells somewhat more squarely face the sun in winter than summer, which further improves. A great amount of information available at NREL sites.

http://www.nrel.g...2008.jpg

http://www.nrel.g...2008.jpg