Solar Technology’s Potential Through 2030
Environment America released the results of a new reportcalled Building a Solar Future: Repowering America’s Homes,Businesses, and Industry with Solar Energy. In it, they say thatsolar power could meet 10% of the energy needs in the U.S. by 2030, aswell as reduce oil imports in the country by $350 billion per yea bythen.
The report is part of a recent movement in the U.S. whereenvironmental groups have been urging lawmakers to commit to expandingclean energy; this report targets solar energy specifically. Byadopting policies that make solar energy attractive to investors, thegovernment can help the solar industry reach its potential; so says thereport.
The report outlines five solar technologies:
- Photovoltaics (PV) – Photovoltaics directly convert solarradiation into electricity. PV can take the form of panels or beincorporated into building materials. PV is scalable, generateselectricity anywhere the sun shines, including in cold climates, has no essential moving parts, uses virtually no water, and is one of the few power generation technologies well suited for use in urban areas.
- Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) – CSP plants usemirrors to focus the sun’s energy to harness heat that can be useddirectly or to generate electricity. Because heat is cheaper and easier to store than electricity, CSP plants with thermal storage can bedesigned to provide energy from the sun even at night. CSP plants havebeen reliably generating power in desert areas of the West for decadesand are now experiencing a resurgence due in part to falling costs andincreasing demand for utility-scale renewable electricity.
- Solar water heaters – Rooftop-mounted collectors capture solar energy as heat and produce hot water. Solar heat collectors can beextremely efficient; low-temperature heaters can capture up to 87percent of the solar energy that reaches them. Solar water heaters canalso be adapted for uses ranging from residential water heating tolarge-scale industrial use.
- Solar space heating and cooling – Collectors similar to those used for hot water can alsobe used to heat air in place of furnaces or boilers. These systems cancontribute 50 percent or more of the energy needed to heat a building.Solar energy can even be used to cool buildings through the use ofabsorption chillers.
- Passive solar design – For centuries, skilled builders have designed homes and other buildingsthat take the best possible advantage of solar energy. “Passive” solar design can contribute to the overall efficiency of a building, reducing the need for energy for lighting, heating and cooling. (Source)
The idea of using domestically-generatedrenewable energy instead of importing oil from the Middle East as amatter of national security is not new. The idea is pretty simple: Themore energy we develop on our own at home, the less money we have tosend out of the country to pay for foreign oil. We could never drillenough oil domestically to meet the current demand for oil in America,but we can chip away at our oil dependence by ramping up domesticrenewable energy production.
Americans today import oil from a desert half a world away, in the most unsettled anddangerous region of the earth, just to power a trip to the grocerystore. It would be much easier and more secure to harness the heat and light that strikes our rooftops every day. (Source)
If solar can meet 10%of U.S. energy needs by 2030, then wind will not be far behind; we aretalking about reaching a renewable energy standard of 25% by 2030 pretty easily.
Most solar installations take aim at theelectricity-side of the energy market, so they would displace coal; butas the electric vehicle market ramps up between now and 2030, less oilwill have to be imported as a result of increasing solar installationsacross the U.S.
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