- NREL research says global nameplate installed solar PV capacity needs to be ramped up on an unprecedented scale for a completely decarbonized electric system
- It pegs this capacity target as 60-fold increase from today’s 1 TW to 63.4 TW between 2050 and 2060
- Disruptive technologies as perovskite and tandem cells will be key to bring costs down for a sustainable energy transition
- Manufacturers will need to scale up their production capacity to a total of 2.9 TW to 3.7 TW annually within 10 years to 15 years
An analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) claims the world can achieve a completely decarbonized electricity system if there is an ‘unprecedented’ ramp-up of solar PV production capacity, reaching 63.4 TW installed nameplate capacity between 2050 and 2060.
This will be a 60-fold increase in installed PV capacity, up from 1 TW now. To supply enough panels for this gigantic goal, manufacturers will need to scale up their production capacity to a total of 2.9 TW to 3.7 TW annually within 10 years to 15 years. It would require an investment ranging between $600 billion to $660 billion.
NREL says its analysis demonstrates that sustainable ramp-up of manufacturing is ‘indeed possible’.
It believes that the deployment of requisite manufacturing capacity can be accomplished at a lower total capital cost with disruptive technologies having lower carbon intensity, embedded energy or higher efficiency such as perovskites and tandem PV. Modules may have a longer life too as researchers have been experimenting with a lifespan of 50 years by 2040.
These disruptive technologies are expected to be deployed at about 1 TW annually and ‘could potentially be cheaper to manufacture than silicon PV on a per-watt basis’ once of course these are proven in the marketplace. It will translate into cost savings into ‘hundreds of billions’ of US dollars.
“More importantly, the analysis shows that disruptive technologies have an overall manufacturing market opportunity between $1 trillion and $2 trillion even when the total amount of PV installed is substantially less than 63.4 TW,” reads the analysis.
What the achievement of this 63.4 TW target will do is bring down the demand for solar modules giving an ‘expected shock’ to the manufacturing industry as a smaller number of modules will then be needed once the decarbonization goal is achieved.
With reduced demand that won’t be sustainable for newer manufacturing units to be built, manufacturers will be unwilling to invest further but will be able to utilize their capacity fully while saving costs. Nonetheless, a ‘relatively modest demand’ in additional PV will be needed after global decarbonization is reached to keep up with module retirement and population growth.
NREL’s research titled Photovoltaic Deployment Scenarios Toward Global Decarbonization: Role of Disruptive Technologies has been published in Solar RRL journal.