What if we replaced all the coal power plants scheduled to come off-line dueto new EPA emissionsrules over the next five years with solar farms?
This would dramatically position solar as a solid new generation resource by 2015. It’s notthat far-fetched and here’s how this scenario could unfold. Consider: According to a recently published Bernstein Research paper, new EPA regulations on mercury and other air toxins could drive ‘rapidand far-reaching changes in the utility sector.’ The regulation inquestion is the EPA decree submitted in October 2009 that would capmercury and other acid gas emissions to more stringent maximumachievable control technology (MACT) standards. These new standards,slated to be published in March 2011 and then ruled on by November 2014, would be followed by a three year compliance period. This scenariopotentially causes nearly 1,000 gigawatts of coal fired electricitygeneration to either be retired or forced to retrofit with costly SO2scrubbers, essentially wiping out any low-cost advantage coal may seemto have (since environmental damage attributable to coal firedgeneration is not currently a factored cost).
Now consider: If only 10% of those existing coal power plants in theU.S. are pulled off-line, this creates a 100 gigawatt deficit in thesupply chain that could be replaced with photovoltaics (PV) – giving the PV industry the boost that would propel it into a major new generationsource, and one that is emissions free.
That’s a goal that sets a new bar, just like MACT. Now, we all justneed to run a little faster.