Today (Sept. 16) the Energy Department released its second Quadrennial Technology Review. The review explores where clean energy technologies are and identifies research opportunities for more clean energy like solar and wind.
One of the main reasons for the review is to look at how the U.S.’s energy infrastructure is impacting climate change. “No challenge poses a greater threat to our future than climate change, which is primarily caused by carbon pollution from energy use,” said Dr. John Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “The QTR makes clear that we have the technological know-how and innovative spirit to move to a low-carbon economy. It’s up to us to carry these opportunities through and make them a reality.”The report looked at how the energy system has changed over the past four years. It found that installed solar power has increased nine fold since the last review and installed wind power has increased 65 percent. At the same time coal-fired power plants are being retired.
“The energy sector in the United States has changed dramatically in recent years due to advances in clean energy technologies, increased oil and gas production and the increased risk to energy infrastructure from extreme weather, cybersecurity and other factors,” said Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. ”The Quadrennial Technology Review is intended to serve as a blueprint for the Energy Department, its National Laboratories and the public and private sectors as we all work toward additional future technology breakthroughs that can help to mitigate the risks of climate change, modernize our energy infrastructure and enhance our energy security.”
In the report the Energy Department stated the vast potential of solar power. “Solar power has a vast resource base and incredible technical potential. For example, PV panels on 0.6 percent of the nation’s land could supply enough electricity to power the entire United States. PV is flexible in size and deployment and can be integrated into the built environment on building rooftops and facades, parking lots, and abandoned or degraded land close to population centers.”
While concentrated solar power (CSP) has largely been out of the spotlight lately the report found that properly located CSP on land in just seven southwest states could theoretically provide four times the current U.S. annual electricity demand. It added that CSP includes some advantages like being able to store energy or cogenerate with with other energy sources.
However, cost reductions in solar still need to realized. “Solar will become economically competitive nationally when the unsubsidized LCOE [i.e., levelized cost of energy] of solar energy reaches roughly $0.06/kilowatt-hours (kWh) at the utility scale (PV and CSP), $0.08/kWh at the commercial scale, and $0.09/kWh at the residential scale. In addition, finding ways to integrate variable generation into the electric grid will enable widespread deployment.” It added: “Since 2010, the industry has progressed by more than 60 percent of the way toward these targets, and costs continue to drop year after year.”
For solar to reach those cost levels PV panel costs must fall another 30 percent by 2020 and soft cost reductions must also be realized. At the same time the efficiency of modules must continue to go up.Tweet