Columnist Johanna Neumann: Our solar future

Posted: 09/26/2021 08:10:36 AM Climate change was at the center of President Joe Biden’s concerns when he addressed the United N...

Posted: 09/26/2021 08:10:36 AM

Climate change was at the center of President Joe Biden’s concerns when he addressed the United Nations last week. He knows, as many know, that facing this existential threat requires a commitment to clean energy.

Recently, the Department of Energy released a new report called “Solar Futures”. The study shows that by 2035, solar power has the potential to produce 40% of the country’s electricity. A reporter asked me if it was feasible. My answer was “very”. Here’s why.

Solar energy is incredibly abundant. All over America, the sun is shining on our roofs, our parking lots, our fields and our forests. This free and unlimited source of energy arrives every day in every American community. To harness this energy, simply place the solar collectors under more sunlight. The constraints are not technical. In fact, using today’s technology, America could get 75 times more from the sun. Thus, the solar ambition of 40% that the Ministry of Energy sets out in its new report is really very feasible.

Solar is developing. Thanks in part to supportive policies, over the past decade solar adoption has skyrocketed. In 2010, less than a tenth of 1% of America’s energy came from solar energy. In 2019, it was almost 3%. To reach 40% in the next 14 years, solar power will need to expand significantly and luckily the industry is well positioned to do so.

As the adoption of solar power has grown, the costs of using solar power have fallen and the technology has improved. Utility-scale solar costs have fallen by 90% and rooftop solar costs by 60% over the past decade. And the large-scale deployment has led to technological improvements. The solar panels installed today are 37% more efficient convert the sun’s rays into electricity than 10 years ago.

As America deploys solar panels, we are also making homes and businesses more energy efficient. Energy efficiency is already saving Americans energy and, together with electrification, America can halve its energy use by 2050. By using less energy overall, it will be much easier to get more of the energy we need from renewable sources like the sun.

To cultivate solar power, we need a steady hand on the tiller. Powering 40% of our country with clean, renewable solar energy in 14 years will not require drastic policy changes, but it will require a long-term commitment to renewable energy at the national, state and local levels.

The federal government must expand and expand federal clean energy tax credits for solar and other renewable technologies. Recently, the Ways and Means Committee chaired by Western Massachusetts Representative Richard Neal included 10-year extensions of clean energy tax incentives in the bill that his committee sends to the House. To maintain solar culture in America, the House would have to approve these measures, as would the Senate.

In Massachusetts, lawmakers should support the Act 100% Clean. This legislation puts Massachusetts on the path to 100% clean electricity by 2035 and 100% clean heating and transportation by 2045 – and solar power will play a key role in achieving these goals . The bill sets clear goals and provides measurable benchmarks for the Commonwealth to switch to clean energy to power our electrical system, heat our homes and get around.

Further state action could include the incentive for solar power, requiring that every new home and commercial building be constructed with solar panels on the roof and preserving a strong statewide interconnection, Net metering and virtual net metering policies that take into account the true value that rooftop solar power provides to the grid. .

Cities can be at the forefront of solar energy adoption. In Massachusetts, communities can put our state on track to reach one million solar roofs by 2030. There are many ways for communities to switch to solar power. Examples include the installation of solar panels on landfills as well as on the roofs of public buildings such as the high school, town hall or library. Cities can also partner with local business owners to install solar awnings on their parking lots and help families register to participate in community solar programs. Each solar panel that goes up in our neighborhoods is one more step towards a future powered by clean renewable energies. And when enough cities and towns go solar, it really starts to add up.

The next 14 years have the potential to shift solar power from the most popular form of energy to one of the most widely adopted. It will take a series of policies – primarily modernized and expanded incentives – to propel this progress. The sooner we engage in this progress, the sooner we will reap the full benefits of cleaner air, cleaner water, and a chance to create a liveable climate for future generations.

Johanna Neumann, of Amherst, has spent the past two decades working to protect our air, water and open spaces, advocate for consumers in the marketplace, and advance a more sustainable economy and democratic society. She can be reached at

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Newsrust - US Top News: Columnist Johanna Neumann: Our solar future
Columnist Johanna Neumann: Our solar future
Newsrust - US Top News
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