Chart of potential power sources for the western United States

Envisioning low-cost solar

UC Berkeley scientists led by Dan Kammen, a nuclear engineering professor and director of the Energy and Resources Group, developed a model of the West’s electric power grid. The model helps predict what will happen if the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) SunShot Initiative succeeds.

SunShot is an effort to make solar power more affordable and accessible to Americans by bringing the price of solar power down to that of conventional power by 2020. The DOE currently invests about $300 million per year in solar energy technologies.

What they found is that low-cost solar power could supply more than a third of all energy needs in the western U.S. by 2050, displacing natural gas, nuclear and carbon capture and sequestration technologies.

“Given strategic long-term planning and research and policy support, the increase in electricity costs can be contained as we reduce emissions,” says Kammen. “Saving the planet may be possible at only a modest cost.”

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