From the early inventions of the waterwheel (200 BC) and windmills (1590s), and the humble origins of solar energy (Augustin Mouchot’s solar steam engine in the 1860s) to this moment, where we stand at the precipice of renewable energy becoming 25% of U.S. energy generation, the history of renewable energy is simply awe-inspiring. Similarly, the modern story of renewable energy is one of civilization confronting and rising to the greatest challenge the human species has ever faced: climate change.
The solar radiation that reaches the Earth’s surface every hour amounts to more than the combined global energy use of the entire planet for an entire year. Within that context it becomes obvious why harnessing solar radiation has been such a critical part of the global transition to renewable energy resources. The past decade has seen extraordinary development of solar energy across the country; and while 2022 saw a reduction in development within the renewable energy sector, significant growth is anticipated in the coming years as an already robust demand increases under the support of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the multitude of clean energy incentives within the IRA.
The IRA extends wind and solar tax credits for projects that begin construction before 2025 and technology-neutral credits through at least 2032. Projections indicate the IRA could drive the development of 525 to 550 GW of new US utility-scale clean power by 2030 (Hinsley 2022), and John Larsen, a partner at the Rhodium Group has said that the emission reductions specified in the IRA will hinge on at least a doubling of the current rate of renewable installations (Storrow 2022). The IRA includes $369 billion in spending and green-energy-related tax credits, a portion of which will be used to achieve the domestic renewable manufacturing capacity target of 50GW by 2030.
But the future of clean energy is more than solar and wind. New renewable technologies (e.g., green hydrogen), energy storage, and associated infrastructure and technology to support decarbonization will be major components of building future energy resiliency. Green hydrogen, a technology that has long been stymied by high cost of production, is seeing serious opportunities under the IRA’s enactment. Under the IRA, a $3 per kilogram tax credit could make green hydrogen cost-competitive with its natural gas-derived counterpart (Esposito and Tallackson, 2022).
Rincon Consultants, Inc. has been a proud supporter of our renewable energy clients over the past 15 years, solving environmental challenges and navigating California’s complex regulatory environment to help build a portion of what now represents almost 40GWs of installed solar energy in California. We look forward to continued relationships with our clients and partners as we create pathways to the development of additional solar and wind projects, expand into green hydrogen and other new renewable technologies, and transition to a green future in California and beyond.
Esposito, Dan and Hadley Tallackson, 2022, The Inflation Reduction Act upends hydrogen economics with opportunities, pitfalls,” Utility Dive, September 30, 2022.
Hensley, John, 2002, It’s a big deal for job growth and for a clean energy future, American Clean Power, August 5, 2022.
Public Law 117-169 (“Inflation Reduction Act”), Congressional Research Service, accessed October 28, 2022.
Storrow, Benjamin, 2022, U.S. Renewable Energy Will Surge Past Coal and Nuclear by Year’s End: Wind, solar and hydropower will generate more than 20 percent of the power
supply. Scientific American E&E News, November 22, 2022. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/u-s-renewable-energy-will-surge-past-coal-and-nuclear-by-years-end/