Solar electricity generation is one of the few low-carbon energy technologies with the potential to grow to very large scale. Recent years have seen rapid growth in installed solar generating capacity; great improvements in technology, price, and performance; and the development of creative business models that have spurred investment in residential solar systems. Nonetheless, further advances are needed to enable a dramatic increase in solar penetration at socially acceptable costs.
In the Future of Solar Energy study—which led to the report—a team of more than 30 experts investigated the potential for expanding solar generating capacity to the multi-terawatt scale by midcentury. The experts examined the current state of US solar electricity generation, the several technological approaches that have been and could be followed to convert sunlight to electricity, and the market and policy environments the solar industry has faced. Their objective was to assess solar energy’s current and potential competitive position and to identify changes in US government policies that could more efficiently and effectively support the industry’s robust, long-term growth.