Solar energy is expanding rapidly across the United States – increasing more than 100-fold over the past decade. But, there are still many untapped opportunities to harness the nation’s nearly limitless solar potential. The United States has the technical potential to produce more than 100 times as much electricity from solar photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP) installations as the nation consumes each year. Given our abundant solar resources, America must take advantage of untapped opportunities to install solar technologies – like using rooftops of large superstores and “big box” retail stores as hosts for clean electricity generation.
Wind power continues to grow as a source of clean energy across America. The United States generated 26 times more electricity from wind power in 2014 than it did in 2001. American wind power has already significantly reduced global warming pollution. In 2014 alone, wind-generated electricity averted an estimated 143 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions – as much as would be produced by 37 typical coal-fired power plants. With America’s massive potential for wind energy on land and off our coasts, wind power can play a key role in meeting the emission reduction targets of the recently adopted Clean Power Plan and moving the nation toward a future of 100 percent renewable electricity.
Solar energy is booming. In just the last three years, America’s solar photovoltaic capacity tripled. America’s solar energy revolution continues to be led by a small group of states that have the greatest amount of solar energy capacity installed per capita. These 10 states have opened the door for solar energy and are reaping the rewards as a result.
Massachusetts has made great progress in reducing its contribution to global warming over the past decade. Despite this progress, however, Massachusetts is not yet on track to hit our 2020 target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions – a target that we must meet in order to do our part to prevent the worst impacts of global warming. Massachusetts also has yet to set a new target for emission reductions for 2030, which is now just 15 years away.
To ensure that the Commonwealth stays on track to meet its target under the Global Warming Solutions Act of cutting emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050, Massachusetts should adopt a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to at least 45 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, and take full advantage of a new wave of game-changing opportunities – from cutting-edge technologies to emerging societal trends – that can help Massachusetts build on its position of national leadership in the fight against global warming.
Environment Massachusetts Research and Policy Center is part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to social change.