A parking structure at the University of California San Diego uses innovative solar trees to collect renewable energy from the Sun, February 8, 2011. (Mike Blake/Reuters)
The Biden administration on Wednesday released an outline mapping out how the U.S. could produce half of its electricity using solar power by 2050 — a sizeable undertaking given that it accounted for just 4 percent of the country’s electricity last year.
The blueprint showed the U.S. would have to double the amount of solar energy installed each year over the next four years and then double it again by 2030.
While the report says the increase is in line with what has been recommended by climate scientists to prevent the worst effects of global warming, it would upend current technology and the energy industry.
Meeting that goal would require trillions of dollars in investments by homeowners, businesses and the government. As the New York Times notes, the electric grid, which was designed for coal, natural gas and nuclear power plants, would need to be almost entirely redone with the addition of batteries, transmission lines and other technologies with the ability to collect electricity while the sun is shining and send it cross country.
Natural gas and coal currently account for roughly 60 percent of the country’s energy. A report by the Energy Department earlier this year predicted that renewable energy would grow from contributing 20 percent of the country’s electricity now to 42 percent by 2050 based on current trends and policies.
However, building and installing enough solar panels to meet the targets will increase demand for aluminum, silicon, steel and glass, placing a strain upon manufacturers and the energy industry. Trade disputes threaten to complicate a large-scale increase in solar power, as China largely controls the supply chain for solar panels. The Biden administration recently began banning imports connected with the Xinjiang region of China over concerns about human rights abuses against the Uyghur minority.
Additionally, the high cost of batteries used to store energy generated by solar panels and wind turbines could make it difficult to scale
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