The U.S. Department of Energy recently announced a goal of expanding solar energy from 4% of our nation’s electricity to 45% by 2050. It’s an ambitious goal aimed at fighting climate change. The 45% goal is in line with what most climate scientists state is necessary.
Getting there will be a challenge. The country would need to double the amount of solar energy installations built each year over the next four years, and then double installations again by 2030.
Here in West Texas, we’re seeing a lot of solar arrays go into production. This often involves the power of eminent domain, which is delegated to many energy companies in Texas. Basically, the solar power industry needs to buy or use existing farm and ranchland to build its arrays. When an appropriate parcel is identified, the company will offer to buy it from the owner. If the owner doesn’t sell, the company may be allowed to use eminent domain to force the sale.
If you have been contacted by a solar energy company about acquiring your land, you do have legal rights. You may be able to show that the energy company does not have the power of eminent domain or is not using that power for a public project. If the sale can’t be stopped, you can still fight for full and fair compensation for the use or sale of your land. To protect your rights, hire an experienced attorney who handles energy law and eminent domain.
The electrical grid will need to be upgraded
So far, the Department of Energy’s plan is just a plan, and there are no clear details yet on how the Biden administration would reach the goal. However, an Energy Department division projected in February that the U.S. is on track to fill 42% of its energy needs using renewable energy sources by 2050. That includes solar, wind and hydroelectric power.
However, the current electricity grid was built with nuclear energy, coal and gas in mind, not renewables. For the plan to work, experts say the grid needs to be upgraded to add transmission lines from the new power installations, battery storage for energy captured by solar or wind farms, and other technologies to transmit energy from sunny and windy parts of the country to areas that are less so.
One thing that makes the goal seem more reachable is the fact that solar energy panels are dropping quickly in price. In fact, solar is now the cheapest form of energy in some parts of the country.
“One of the things we’re hoping that people see and take from this report is that it is affordable to decarbonize the grid,” said the director of the Solar Energy Technology Office in the Energy Department. “The grid will remain reliable. We just need to build.”
Will you be part of the change?