Here’s why US-made solar panels would slash emissions by 33%

US-made solar panels would significantly reduce emissions and energy consumption, according to a new study from Cornell University.

If the US manufactures the solar panels it uses instead of importing them, then that would speed up decarbonization, according to research published in Nature Communications by Cornell Engineering.

Specifically, fully returning solar panel manufacturing to the US by 2035 would cut emissions by 30% and reduce energy consumption by 13%, compared to 2020, when the US relied almost entirely on imports.

The researchers further assert that if the “reshored manufacturing target is achieved by 2050, the climate change and energy impacts would be further reduced by 33% and 17%, compared to the 2020 level.”

Fengqi You, a co-author of the study, explained that “the US will see a larger share of renewable power accounting for primary energy consumption and an overall lower primary energy consumption over the years for solar panel manufacturing.”

Making solar panels in the US will reduce supply chain disruption and the threat of geopolitical instability. It would also reduce the cost and emissions of shipping freight from abroad. And because solar projects will come online in a more timely manner due to less obstacles, then they’ll be connected to the grid faster.

The researchers maintain:

By 2035, solar power is projected to support 40% of US electricity demand, a tenfold increase over the solar output in 2021. By 2050, solar could be nearly half of the electricity supply.

The Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act provides $369 billion to build a clean energy economy, and that includes the production of 950 million solar panels.

The US is the second-largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world. According to the World Resources Institute, the top three emitters — “China, the United States, and India — contribute 42.6% total emissions, while the bottom 100 countries only account for only 2.9%.”  

Read more: The US’s first-ever complete solar supply chain is coming

Photo: First Solar

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