Solar Installation Future in the US: Getting Clean

Solar capacity in 2020 grew more than ever and MOXIE Solar was part of it. MOXIE’s Rapid Installation Teams installed more solar than all our previous years combined, nearly 1,200 solar arrays on farms, homes, and businesses, totaling over 10 megawatts (mW) of new power from the old sun.

What’s the renewable energy outlook for 2021? For the 2020s and beyond?

One lofty goal outlined by the incoming administration is running the US on 100 percent renewable energy by 2035.

A more restrained Wood Mackenzie report from December 2020 estimated that the US can achieve 50 percent renewables by 2030. Reaching 50 percent renewable energy would require adding nearly 300 gW of large-scale solar additions in the next decade.

In 2019, the industry added more than 13.3 gigawatts of solar capacity. In 2020, a record 19 gW of solar went online.

The Wood Mackenzie report suggests that executive actions alone could increase renewable energy to 37 percent by 2030. Unless renewable deployment speeds up, 300 gW is not achievable. It will take more than executive actions to get to 50 percent renewables by 2030. For one, it will take retiring all coal energy nationwide and some US utilities won’t commit to that.

(How much is a gigawatt? See below for a quick explanation of wattage.)

future of solar installation
Top: Forecast for solar capacity. Bottom: NRDC’s Sustainable FERC Project mapped energy projects withdrawn from MISO

What are the biggest impediments to expanding solar power and renewables in the US?

There are a few impediments to expanding solar power and renewables in the US. One of the biggest ongoing problems is grid congestion and lack of infrastructure. This affects all energy transmission, not just renewable energy. Advances have been made but regulatory oversight is lagging.

A recent study by the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Sustainable FERC Project, names the culprit: an aging and limited grid.

“The network is reaching its limit,” said John Moore, the director of NRDC’s Sustainable FERC Project.

MISO, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, is a transmission service with a footprint stretching from eastern Texas to Manitoba, Canada.

Over 200 clean energy projects were canceled from 2016-20 due to MISO’s limited transmission capacity. Energy developers withdrew projects because MISO’s grid needs upgrades. Most withdrawals were concentrated in Michigan and Minnesota. Each state saw about 5,000 mW dropped.

“This is the single largest thing holding back renewable development,” David Mindham of EDP Renewables said.

Hope for the Future: Modernizing the Grid

The Energy Act of 2020, rolled into the massive Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (signed on Dec. 27, 2020), was hailed as “the first comprehensive modernization of our nation’s energy policies in 13 years.”

The bipartisan legislation prioritizes “research, development, and demonstration of next-generation technologies that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector, industry, and buildings… The Energy Act focuses on energy storage; advanced nuclear; carbon capture, utilization, and storage; carbon removal; renewable energy; critical minerals and materials; fusion; industrial technologies; smart manufacturing; and grid modernization…”

VPPs are VIPs

A recent advance in energy distribution works around complicated grid infrastructure. Virtual power plants (VPPs) are one way to meet demand and ensure reliable energy transmission. A VPP is a cloud-based system that aggregates distributed energy sources (including battery storage, wind, and others) into a network in real time.

“These [VPP] systems tap existing grid networks to tailor electricity supply and demand services for a customer. VPPs maximize value for both the end user and the distribution utility using a sophisticated set of software-based systems. They are dynamic, deliver value in real time, and can react quickly to changing customer load conditions,” according to grid analyst Peter Asmus.

Tesla’s Australian 250mW VPP aggregates distributed energy resources (DERs) from 50,000 residential “prosumers” (energy producer and consumer).

MOXIE Solar Installs Battery Storage too!

Energy storage advances are poised to meet baseline demand. You probably heard about the battery boom. Over the past decade, lithium-ion battery storage efficiency grew in tandem with solar panel pricing and efficiency.

Analysts are concerned about world reserves and the environmental impact of lithium mining. But some other battery materials (like sulfur, zinc bromide, and hydrogen) may be able to compete with the nearly ubiquitous lithium-ion energy storage pack found in cars, laptops, phones, and video cameras.

The essential need for battery storage was not lost on legislators. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 included money for battery research in the BEST way. The Better Energy Storage Technology (BEST) Act provides $1 billion of federal investment into energy storage research and development.

What do you think?

The next year (and decade) will show the results of PV tariffs, the solar ITC extension, the battery boom, and an optimized grid infrastructure. What do you think? Is 50 percent renewable energy a safe bet by 2030? What about achieving 100 percent renewable energy by 2035? Join the discussion on our Facebook page or Twitter.

In any case, please take advantage of the 26% ITC, local incentives, and the expertise of MOXIE’s solar expert finance and Rapid Installation Teams. MOXIE installers can also help you go solar with a battery storage system!

Do you know watts the deal?

For reference, one megawatt can power about 200 Texas homes on a hot day. Every location is different, so running air conditioning all day and night might be a necessity in Florida or Texas but not so in Michigan or Wisconsin. Sun, wind, and other climate conditions affect solar production and energy demand.

A gigawatt (equal to 1,000 megawatts) is estimated to power 700,000 homes.

1 gW = 1,000 mW = 1,000,000 kW = 1,000,000,000 watts

A solar panel produces around 300 watts. A typical home system uses a couple dozen panels to produce 7-10 kilowatts.

What’s your future? Are you interested in a MOXIE Solar Installation?

Get started with a fast, free, no-obligation virtual quote from our solar experts.

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