PV could power a third of western US by 2050


Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have produced a computer model that demonstrates solar PV power produced for US$1/W could provide one-third of the electricity needs of the western U.S.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative aims to bring down the cost of PV energy to $1/W and the creators of the SWITCH computer model calculated if this aim is achieved, solar power could displace gas as a source of electricity generation in the ‘medium term’ and nuclear and carbon capture and storage technology by 2050.

The tool looks at the electricity grid of the western U.S. and postulates even further penetration of solar if gigawatt-scale storage comes into play.

The Berkeley modellers also calculated the costs of introducing a cap or tax on carbon could be mitigated by the energy cost savings of $1/W solar supplying one-third of western U.S. electricity.

The SunShot Initiative has calculated $1/W solar energy could reduce energy costs up to 14 per cent, resulting in annual energy savings of up to $20 billion by 2050.

The Department of Energy also announced the beta launch of two popular online solar tools developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

Visitors can now use updated versions of the PVWatts Calculator – which estimates the cost of energy production and grid connected PV energy costs worldwide – and the System Advisor Tool (SAM), used by developers to estimate the performance and financial modelling of planned solar projects.