How Much Solar PV Is Needed for Net Zero Target?
To meet its 2050 net zero target, the United States needs to cover land 50 times the size of Austin, Texas, with solar PV, according to Rystad Energy.
The independent energy intelligence company estimates that the utility solar PV installed capacity required to meet the target would occupy around 13,412 square miles of land, which it says is equivalent to 0.43 percent of the total land area in the lower 48 states, or roughly 50 times the size of Austin. The operational utility solar PV capacity in the U.S. as of February 2021, according to Rystad Energy’s RenewableCube, is about 48.8 gigawatts, which is said to cover 654 square miles of land.
Rystad noted that land scarcity is often cited as a key barrier to ramping up solar capacity in the United States. The company also warned that upgrading the current transmission network and building new lines would be crucial in order to deliver electricity from remote locations – where it says solar plants are generally located - to centers of demand with high population density and outlined that the intermittent nature of solar will require an “unprecedented” roll-out of storage infrastructure.
“Although building all these solar farms is no easy task, with the right choice of unoccupied land and with sufficient investments in infrastructure, it can be done,” Felix Tan, a senior analyst at Rystad, said in a company statement.
“Not every state is a good fit for large-scale solar plants, but certain southern states could take on larger gigawatts-scale projects than others,” he added.
“Bearing in mind that the Biden administration is also planning a major expansion of transmission networks across the country, the scene is set for gigawatt-scale solar PV projects to be launched. We expect more gigawatt-scale solar PV projects to follow, including hybrid developments,” Tan went on to say.
The 600 megawatt Topaz solar farm in California, which came online in 2013 and 2014, currently ranks as the largest plant in the country.
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