Solar PV to be Largest Growing Energy Source in U.S.

Solar photovoltaic will represent the fastest growing source of electricity generation in the United States for the next 20 years, according to government data.

WASHINGTON, DC – The use of solar PV to generate power will grow by more than 19 percent per year until 2020, according to the Annual Energy Outlook 2001 published late last month by the Energy Information Administration in Washington. The document contains energy projections to the year 2020. Conventional hydroelectric dams provide the largest source of renewable energy in the United States, with 78 gigawatts of capacity in 1999. These facilities will remain static for the next 20 years, with power output actually decreasing slightly during the period, from 3,160 trillion Btu (t-Btu) to 3,062 in 2020, says EIA. Geothermal is the next largest contributor, with 2.8 GW of capacity in 1999, which is forecast to expand to 4.4 GW by 2020, an annual increase of 2.1 percent. Generation output will increase 3.7 percent a year, from 362 to 773 t-Btu over the period. Municipal solid waste had 2.6 GW of capacity in 1999 with generation of 246 t-Btu, and will expand at 2.9 percent a year to 4.7 GW of capacity and 463 t-Btu output in 20 years. Biomass was 1.5 GW of capacity and 84 t-Btu output in 1999, and will grow at 2.2 percent a year to reach 2.4 GW capacity and 197 t-Btu output by 2020. Wind energy facilities had 2.6 GW of capacity in 1999 and output of 45 t-Btu, and is expected to grow at an annual increase of 3.9 percent, reaching 5.8 GW capacity and 134 t-Btu generation by 2020. Grid-connected solar thermal was 0.3 GW capacity and 9 t-Btu output in 1999, and will grow at only 1.7 percent a year to reach 0.5 GW capacity by 2020, with 14 t-Btu output. Grid-connected solar PV was one of the smallest contributors to U.S. electricity load in 1999, with only 0.01 GW of capacity and output of 0.3 t-Btu, but the EIA tables show that it will expand by 19.4 percent until 2020, to reach 0.5 GW capacity and 13 t-Btu generating output.

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