Getting To 100% Renewable Energy In the US

Source: By Adam Johnston, CleanTechnica • Posted: Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Getting to 100% renewable energy in the US by 2050 is a goal that is gaining traction among the US public. Reports from many environmental organizations have been written on how to get to this target, including from Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Foundation. After last year’s COP21 conference, the momentum has gotten stronger in order to keep global temperature within the 1.5°C threshold to avoid dramatic climatic change on the Earth.

Now, another massive report suggests a framework on how the US can get to 100% renewable energy sources by 2050.

Nellis Solar Power Plant, photovoltaic power plant in Nevada by U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Nadine Y. Barclay via Wikicommons (Public Domain)

A paper titled 100% Clean and Renewable Wind, Water and Sunlight all-sector Roadmaps for the 50 United States suggests this is possible even within 35 years. This analysis shows that getting to 100% renewable energy within the US would consist of:

  • 30.9% onshore wind
  • 19.1% offshore wind
  • 30.7% utility-scale solar photovoltaics (PV)
  • 7.2% rooftop PV
  • 7.3% concentrated solar power (CSP) with storage
  • 1.25% geothermal
  • 0.37% tidal/wave
  • 3.01% hydroelectricity

US 100 percent renewable energy

Under a 100% renewable scenario based on these numbers, millions of jobs would be created. Consider that 3.9 million construction jobs and 2 million operational jobs at renewable energy plants would outpace 3.9 million jobs lost from the traditional energy sectors.

Wisconsin 100 percent renewable energy

To further enhance these numbers, The Solutions Project website shows what each jurisdiction needs to do to get to 100%. For example, Minnesota could get 60% of its total energy from onshore wind (and note that this is all energy, not just electricity, but relies on electrification of transport). California, on the other hand, can get 26.5% from solar PV plants and 25% from onshore wind.

California 100 percent renewable energy

The numbers are primarily based on existing, commercially available technology. There is some potential to increase energy from “newer renewables” if they develop to a mature, cost-competitive scale. While tidal and wave energy make up a small fraction of the suggested renewable energy mix, for example, both have a lot to gain if they make further breakthroughs and cost improvements. Military giant Lockheed Martin is investing in wave and tidal energy. It seeks to capitalize on these new markets, as both the US tidal and wave energy markets are projected to reach $10.1 billion by 2020.

On the other end, future challenges could face hydroelectricity. A recent article from CBC discussed how a new Nature report points to how power plant production (including hydro) could see declines by 66.7% globally by 2040 & 2069, due (of course) to a changing climate.

Nonetheless, this report and the tidy website give a roadmap and discussion for how the US can get to 100% renewables by 2050.