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Sun, Wind, & Water - Our Energy Future

ASAP (American Solar Action Plan) is a non-profit organization building public understanding about how solar, wind and hydrogen produced from water can make the United States energy self-sufficient.
2023 ASAP Status Update:
Graph of U.S. Solar/Wind annual capacity additions, 2020-2023

The U.S. PV market is poised for a breakout year in 2023 with a 24 gigawatt (GW) forecast for PV capacity additions. The 2023 forecast for utility PV installations is 15 GW and for small PV (rooftop) installations the forecast is 9 GW. The robust forecast is supported by the freeze on import tariffs for PV modules and cells produced in Malaysia, Vietnam, and Thailand, which are the top three countries for U.S. PV imports.

2022 was a lackluster year for U.S. PV with a disappointing 17 GW of capacity additions. PV demand was dampened by high prices caused by global supply chain constraints. The U.S. cumulative installed PV capacity increased to 110 GW. Utility scale PV dominates the U.S. PV market with 71 GW of cumulative installed capacity (65% share) and is followed by 39 GW of cumulative small PV capacity (35% share).

U.S. wind capacity additions fell to 8 GW in 2022. The sharp decline in wind installations is due to transmission and permitting headwinds. Cumulative installed wind capacity increased to 141 GW. The prospects for wind growth in 2023 remain bleak with a 10 GW forecast.

Combined PV and wind electricity generation contributed 15.0% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2022. PV electricity generation was 4.8% of total U.S. electricity generation, and wind was 10.2% of total U.S. electricity generation. In 2023 PV electricity generation is expected to top 5.0% of total U.S. electricity generation for the first time.

Storage of intermittent PV and wind electricity generation is essential to reduce fossil fuel electricity generation. U.S. battery storage capacity additions in 2022 was 4 GW, which brings cumulative battery storage capacity to 9 GW. While battery storage developers state a four-hour storage capacity, average battery capacity utilization in 2022 was only 1.2 hours per day. In essence, battery storage is being applied for modest peak demand shaving. ASAP’s battery capacity additions forecast for 2023 is 8 GW with a 1.5 hour per day storage capacity utilization factor.

The U.S. is lagging in domestic PV manufacturing and relies heavily on imported PV modules and cells. In response to concerns about the dominance of the Chinese PV manufacturing market and the reliance on Chinese PV components for growth in U.S. PV, the U.S. Congress included solar manufacturing incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). A Department of Energy study states that the IRA incentives will enable the U.S. to increase U.S. PV manufacturing to 10 GW by 2025, 15 GW by 2026, and 25 GW by 2028.

While the PV manufacturing goals are modest in comparison to China, they are an encouraging start as envisioned in ASAP’s “Grand Plan for Solar Energy” Scientific American article. Numerous firms manufacturing PV components have stated that they will build manufacturing facilities in the U.S. Importantly, the U.S. is developing a supply chain for the manufacture of monocrystalline-silicon (c-SI) PV modules, which is the leading PV technology that is currently dominated by Chinese manufacturers.

ASAP projects strong growth in annual PV and wind capacity additions going forward. Passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) extends the solar investment tax credit, which provides a tailwind for PV growth. In addition, the IRA provides incentives for electricity transmission line infrastructure, which is critical for rapid growth in PV and wind electricity generation. Several high voltage dc (HVDC) power line projects are in the land acquisition stage of development.

With the knowledge and experience gained, the U.S. is poised for the Terawatt Challenge, 2021-2050.

The societal costs of climate change scenarios, from best to worst over the period 2020-2100, are very sobering. And when the climate change outlook is extended to the period 2100-2200, the societal costs of climate change become staggering. Climate change scientists are unified in their concern that climate change outlooks are increasingly disturbing. The longer we delay in making a total commitment to a solar and wind energy system and steep carbon dioxide reduction, the greater the costs we transfer to our children and grandchildren. The goal is achievable, but only if there is unified government, business and public support.

2021-2050: Scaling Up! - Solar Grand Plan Stage Two / The Terawatt Challenge:

Summary (see the details):
The U.S. had 77 GW of solar capacity as of the end of 2020. To replace the usage of fossil fuels with solar energy while meeting future growth, on the order of 3 TW of solar capacity will be required by 2050, an increase of 40 times current capacity! This is the "Terawatt Challenge". Based on the analysis in the original SGP from 2008, and the in-process "SGP Stage Two", this is entirely feasible if a variety of difficult but doable challenges can be met:

  • Challenge:  Energy storage
  • Challenge:  Distribution, both electricity and hydrogen
  • Challenge:  Infrastructure siting

2008: Solar Grand Plan:
All the pieces of this world-changing plan actually exist and have been described in the January 2008 Scientific American “Solar Grand Plan” article, which was co-authored by ASAP. The object is to stabilize energy prices for generations to come by adopting the lowest cost, unsubsidized solar and wind production and distribution systems. We believe it is only a lack of public awareness that prevents the Plan from being immediately adopted.

The United States has an abundance of solar and wind energy potential – enough to supply its entire energy needs. This can be done using existing technology and at an affordable price. To get there requires a coordinated national-level effort. The steps are:

  • Build solar PV plants in the sun-rich desert Southwest
    • U.S. located PV manufacturing plants
  • Build wind farms in the wind-rich Midwest
  • Build electricity storage to designed to smooth variable PV and wind electricity supply
    • Battery
    • Compressed air energy storage (CAES)
    • Molten Salt
  • Construction of a HVDC transmission system to transport PV and wind electricity nationwide
  • All electric transportation
    • Battery electric vehicles
    • Hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles
  • Conversion to electric home and commercial space heating
    • Advanced heat pump technology

Electrification of the total U.S. energy system is the only effective way to combat global warming. The largest uses for fossil fuels are electricity generation, transportation, home/commercial space heating, and industrial processes. Electricity demand will increase significantly to accommodate transportation and space heating. Public adoption of electric cars is important if we want to end transportation carbon emissions, which is important since transportation accounts for 70% of U.S. oil consumption.

An all PV and wind electricity system will allow us to expand domestic jobs and economic well-being while providing us with a sustainable and emissions free energy path for the future.

The use of carbon-free solar and wind electricity allows us to reduce CO2 emissions in 2100 by 92% below current levels. It is important for the rest of the world to follow suit if global warming is to be tamed.

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World's largest single-axis Solar PV plant goes online
Abengoa has brought online the world´s largest tracking solar PV plant, the 206MW Mount Signal Solar farm in California.
   Article on CleanTechnica website

Warren Buffett’s utility company's order for about $1 billion of wind turbines shows how a drop in equipment costs is making renewable energy more cost competitive.

The DOI has approved two solar energy projects located near the Nevada-California border, to supply 550 megawatts.

Solar Thermal goes online!
Abengoa has brought online the US’s first large-scale solar plant with thermal energy storage system, at 280MW.
   Solana site announcement
   Photograph of site
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