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  • Ryan Jones

Siting Renewables and Transmission

Updated: Jun 28

Wind and solar have become cornerstones in the most common low carbon pathways for the U.S. Both resources are low cost, simple to build, and have high resource potential.

However, their diffuse nature presents a unique challenge as large land areas are required to replace the energy we currently derive from fossil fuels. This diffuseness also makes new transmission to access these resources critical.

Recent years have shown contrasting trends in renewable deployment. While solar installations have surged following incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), wind and transmission projects have faced significant siting challenges.

While the above preamble will be common knowledge to many readers, the question of how much infrastructure can be built and at what speed is difficult to predict in the next five years, let alone the next three decades.

In such a situation, the best way to explore the topic is with scenario analysis where modeling exercises can tell us not what will be built, but the implications of different assumptions (build rates, etc.) on outcomes of interest (cost, emissions, etc.). In this spirit, Evolved Energy Research has conducted a set of sensitivities starting from the 2023 Annual Decarbonization Perspective (ADP). The sensitivity analysis explores the implications of slower siting of wind, solar, and transmission to help frame the tradeoffs involved. Among the findings:

  1. Accelerating the deployment rate of wind, solar, and transmission from today's pace is critical; approximately half of the emissions reductions benefits from IRA in the medium-term are dependent on it.

  2. Frozen renewable growth would reduce the cumulative tax credit benefits claimed under the IRA by $300B, limiting their promise for accelerating the clean energy transition.

  3. Achieving net-zero without accelerating wind, solar, and transmission deployment rates would necessitate an additional 140 GW of new nuclear, 160 GW of gas with carbon capture, 190 GW of offshore wind, and 190 GW of rooftop PV.

To help visualize these scenarios, we've partnered with Princeton University to produce a series of maps based on our 2023 ADP outputs. These maps illustrate current wind and solar siting as well as potential infrastructure portfolios in a net-zero energy system with varying resource emphases.

This analysis underscores the critical importance of addressing siting and permitting challenges for renewable energy and transmission infrastructure. As we continue to refine our understanding of the U.S. energy transition, it's clear that policy and regulatory frameworks enabling rapid renewable deployment will be essential for cost-effective decarbonization.

U.S. ADP 2023 Siting Sensitivities
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