Producing climate-safe power from quintupling today’s utility-scale renewable capacity, so it meets 80–90% of 2050 electricity needs, would cost slightly less and cut carbon emissions even more. This approach would sustain or improve reliability while reducing financial, fuel, and technology risks.
Technology capital cost projections, 2010-2050
In evaluating the future U.S. electricity system, Rocky Mountain Institute created capital cost projections for fossil and renewable generation technologies through 2050. Many newer technologies, such as concentrated solar power, solar photovoltaics, and battery storage, are projected to have rapidly declining capital costs in the next 40 years.
Wind and solar photovoltaic capital cost trends, 1976–2010
Renewable energy technologies have historically had higher capital costs than fossil-fueled power plants, but these costs are falling rapidly.
Strategies for reducing the cost of ground-mounted solar PV
The solar photovoltaics industry has seen remarkable cost reductions over the past 35 years. PV module prices have declined so much that today non-module
costs are the majority of total installed cost for utility-scale PV projects. These “balance of system” costs are primed for major reduction through smarter and smaller power electronics, streamlined installation technologies and processes, and project development approaches that leverage low-risk capital and better customer education.
Solar PV Balance of System
Despite great advances in solar photovoltaic (PV) technology over the past half-century, it has not been widely adopted for electrical generation. Today only a tiny fraction of U.S. electricity is supplied via solar—well under 0.1 percent in 2009.