The US Department of Energy (DoE) awarded almost $40m to 40 projects that will increase the lifespan and reliability of solar and related industrial and storage technologies “necessary” for achieving a carbon-free electric grid by 2035.
“We are laser focused on deploying more solar power and developing more cost-effective technologies to decarbonise our electricity system,” said Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, adding the projects are “an investment in the next generation of innovations that will strengthen the nation’s solar capacity and enhance our grid resilience."
Specifically, the projects will reduce the cost of both concentrating solar power and PV technologies. For example, by increasing the lifespan of PV systems from 30 to 50 years, developing technologies that will enable solar to be used in fuel and chemicals production, and advancing novel storage technologies, according to DoE.
After Biden set the ambitious 2035 target, Democrats with a razor-thin majority in Congress have struggled to reach agreement on what role the federal government should play in this aspect of the energy transition, how many taxpayer dollars are necessary and where should investments be made.
His administration envisions solar playing the lead role among renewable technologies in cleaning the grid over the next 14 years. In a recent report, DoE’s 2035 scenario had cumulative solar deployment of 760GW to 1TW, serving 37%-42% of electricity demand versus about 80GW and 3% of demand in 2020.
Climate is the signature issue for Biden, who is under growing pressure from the ascendent left flank of his party, domestic public opinion, and foreign leaders to act boldly on electricity decarbonisation before start of the COP26 conference 31 October.
They view greening the grid and making it more resilient as critical to extending electrification to other parts of the economy such as transportation.
The power sector was the second largest source of US greenhouse gas emissions (25%) after transportation (29%), according to the latest available federal data in 2019. Industry (23%), commercial and residential (13%) and agriculture (10%) were the other major contributors.