skip to main content

Title: On the Path to SunShot. The Environmental and Public Health Benefits of Achieving High Solar Penetrations in the United States

Compared with fossil fuel generators, photovoltaics (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP) produce far lower lifecycle levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and harmful pollutants including fine particular matter (PM2.5), sulfur dioxide (SO 2), and nitrogen oxides (NO x). In this report, we monetize the emission reductions from achieving the U.S. Department of Energy's SunShot deployment goals: 14% of U.S. electricity demand met by solar in 2030 and 27% in 2050. We estimate that achieving these goals could reduce cumulative power-sector GHG emissions by 10% between 2015 and 2050, resulting in savings of $238-$252 billion. This is equivalent to 2.0-2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour of solar installed (cents/kWh-solar). Similarly, realizing these levels of solar deployment could reduce cumulative power-sector emissions of PM2.5 by 8%, SO 2 by 9%, and NOx by 11% between 2015 and 2050. This could produce $167 billion in savings from lower future health and environmental damages, or 1.4 cents/kWh-solar--while also preventing 25,000-59,000 premature deaths. To put this in perspective, this estimated combined benefit of 3.5 cents/kWh-solar due to SunShot-level solar deployment is approximately equal to the additional levelized cost of electricity reduction needed to make unsubsidized utility-scale solar competitive with conventional generators today. In addition, the analysismore » shows that achieving the SunShot goals could save 4% of total power-sector water withdrawals and 9% of total power-sector water consumption over the 2015-2050 period--a particularly important consideration for arid states where substantial solar will be deployed. These results have potential implications for policy innovation and the economic competitiveness of solar and other generation technologies.« less
 [1] ;  [2] ;  [1] ;  [2] ;  [2] ;  [2] ;  [2] ;  [2] ;  [2]
  1. Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. (LBNL), Berkeley, CA (United States)
  2. National Renewable Energy Lab. (NREL), Golden, CO (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
NREL/TP-6A20-65628; LBNL-1004373
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
National Renewable Energy Lab. (NREL), Golden, CO (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Solar Energy Technologies Office (EE-4S)
Country of Publication:
United States
14 SOLAR ENERGY; 29 ENERGY PLANNING, POLICY, AND ECONOMY; SunShot; solar; PV; photovoltaic; CSP; concentrating solar power; climate change; carbon; greenhouse gas; carbon dioxide; CO2; sulfur dioxide; SO2; nitrogen oxides; NOx; particulate matter; PM; environmental; benefits; social cost of carbon; water; air pollution; externalities; health; policy