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What Does The Future of Energy Look Like?

Embracing a sustainable future hinges on harnessing the power of innovation in renewable energy. From soaring advancements in solar technology to the gusts of progress in wind power, the United States is on a transformative journey towards a cleaner, more sustainable energy future. These innovations improve future energy production potential and make widespread adoption much more feasible. Discover the leading innovations in the energy industry and take a peek into the future of renewable energy solutions.

The Current State of Solar in the U.S.

Solar is one of the fastest growing industries in the country. In the past decade, the solar job force has increased 167%, employing more than 255,000 full-time workers. The growth rate of the solar industry is five times greater than overall U.S. job growth. In the solar industry, business is booming, and it’s not likely to slow down anytime soon. 

In terms of power generation, solar energy has increased exponentially over the past decade. The United States has a current solar-generating capacity of 165,000 Gigawatts (GW), accounting for 3.9% of total energy consumption. Sunny California is the undisputed leader in solar power with 39.729 GW of capacity. California’s solar capacity is enough to power 10.7 million homes! 

Expected Growth & The Future of Solar Energy

National goals and federal incentives are accelerating the speed of solar energy deployment. As part of the Investing in America agenda, the federal government is making solar energy permitting more efficient. A quick permit process paired with federal tax incentives are making the future of solar energy solutions much more accessible. Businesses and homeowners alike are harvesting the rewards of this agenda.  

81% of the country’s new electric-generating capacity installed in 2024 will be solar and battery storage. Solar energy capacity is expected to grow by 36.4 GW while battery storage should grow by 14.3 GW this year. With this level of accelerated deployment and recent technological advancements, solar energy is likely to meet its goals.  

Recent advancements driving solar technology growth

  • Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV): Photovoltaics, the technology within solar panels, is being developed for more discreet building applications. BIPV technology is being incorporated into solar windows, solar paint, and solar roofing shingles. This innovation enables greater solar adoption while maintaining building aesthetics. 
  • Bifacial Solar Panels: Bifacial solar panels greatly improve energy production by absorbing sunlight from both sides of the panel. The power generation of traditional solar panels is often limited by their placement. However, bifacial panels can see up to a 30% increase in production by exposing the back of the solar cell. 

Innovations in solar energy applications

Agrivoltaics: While most solar farms are installed on singular use land, Agrivoltaics combine solar panels with crop or livestock farming. Solar panels are used to provide shade to animals or more delicate crops, providing a mutually beneficial relationship. As of 2023, there are 314 agrivoltaic projects in the U.S. representing 2.8 GW of solar capacity.

Floating Solar Farms: Occasionally called floating photovoltaics or floatovoltaics, this solar application combines power generation with water conservation. Solar panels are attached to rafts and placed in a body of water, instead of using valuable land space. The water keeps the solar panels cool, and the panels reduce evaporation. Floating solar farms are highly beneficial in areas prone to drought.

Floating Solar Panel Farm

The Current State of Wind Energy in the U.S.

Wind is currently the largest renewable energy resource in the U.S. with a capacity of 425,000 GW. It accounts for 10.2% of the power consumed by Americans. The remarkable level of wind power comes from the blustery central states along Tornado Alley. While many central states produce substantial wind power, none of them come close to Texas, generating an astounding 119,836 GWh of wind energy in 2023. Texas out-performs the second (IA), third (OK), and fourth (KS) top wind power-producing states combined.  

While wind energy generation is substantial, the wind energy job market has had more steady growth. There are currently more than 125,580 Americans employed full-time within the wind industry. Job opportunities grew a steady 5% between 2022 and 2023. The future of wind energy jobs is expected to continue growing at a similar rate over the next several years. 

Expected Growth & the Future of Wind Energy 

There is a great push to accelerate wind energy deployment, especially for offshore wind farms. The Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced that they’ve allocated a budget of $48 million towards offshore wind advancement. Furthermore, the Biden Administration recently approved the eighth offshore windfarm in New England, which will grow capacity by another 10 GW.  

These investments align with the greater goal of doubling wind power from 10.2% of national consumption to 20% by 2030. They hope to achieve this lofty goal by reaching 30 GW during that timeframe. Not only would this provide the country with clean, renewable energy, but it would also provide reliable careers. Adding 30 GW of wind power to the national grid also adds 44,000 jobs to the American workforce.  

Recent advancements driving wind power growth

  • Wake Steering: Wake steering uses controls to tilt or turn the direction of a wind turbine, taking advantage of changing wind patterns. Turbine operators can improve the production levels of their wind farm by 1-2% depending on the size of the operation.  
  • Innovations in Turbine Design: In order to improve each turbine’s energy capture, there has been substantial research focused on improving turbine design. Stronger winds exist at higher altitudes. Increasing tower height by 17 meters provides the opportunity to install much longer turbine blades to capture high-altitude wind. Turbines are also being designed with larger rotors relative to their generators to catch more wind, even at lower speeds. 

Innovations in wind power applications

Airborne Wind Turbines: Wind turbines are massive structures, requiring significant land space. It takes 71 acres to generate a megawatt (MW) of wind power. In areas where suitable land for wind farms is lacking, airborne wind turbines offer a promising solution. Airborne systems can achieve an altitude of 800 meters with a minimal footprint on land, providing a wind energy solution for densely populated areas.

 Floating Offshore Wind Turbines: Floating offshore turbines enable wind power development further offshore in very deep waters. Traditional wind turbines could only be installed up to a depth of 60 meters, whereas floating turbine technology unlocks 80% more wind production potential.

How Geothermal Innovation Ushers the Future of Heating & Cooling

Geothermal power is quite common in the Western states and Hawaii where there are abundant underground hot spots. However, geothermal heat pumps are becoming increasingly popular across the United States. While utility-scale geothermal power plants require specific geological conditions, most buildings can benefit from a geothermal heat pump. This futuristic energy solution provides an individual heating and cooling system, significantly reducing energy expenses. 

The Rise of Geothermal Heat Pumps: Heat pumps provide a renewable and decentralized heating and cooling system for homes and businesses. They harness geothermal heat under the Earth’s surface to regulate temperature, reducing a building’s electrical demands significantly.  

Geothermal heat pumps reduce energy and emissions up to 72% compared to standard air-conditioning systems. They can be customized for a variety of applications and scales, from individual households to full communities. 

The Hydroelectric Ocean Energy Innovation Making Waves

Hydroelectric power is one of the oldest forms of renewable energy, however ocean energy research is giving it new life. The latest ocean energy research is focused on harnessing the highly reliable power of ocean currents. If produced at utility-scale, ocean energy could provide a future energy solution for coastal cities across the nation. 

Hydroelectric Wave Energy: Sea Wave Energy Limited’s (SWEL) Waveline Magnet provides the world’s most efficient, low-cost wave energy converter.  

The Waveline Magnet harnesses wave energy for desalination processes, producing hydrogen, and generating electricity. If harnessed at large-scale, it could be the cleanest method of generating renewable power. 

Innovations in Nonrenewable Clean Energy 

Not all clean energy sources are renewable. Nuclear power is unique because it’s non-renewable but doesn’t emit greenhouse gas emissions. Popular opinion about nuclear energy has fluctuated over time, however modern applications are safer and more reliable than ever. Nuclear power is a necessary component in the transition to a net-zero emissions future. 

The current state of nuclear energy in the U.S. 

There are currently 54 nuclear power plants with 93 operating reactors across the United States. In 2023, Nuclear power plants generated 775,000 GW of power, representing 18.6% of the energy consumed in the U.S. That is enough energy to power 72 million American homes with clean, reliable nuclear power. In 2023, the first new nuclear reactor went online in nearly a decade at the Vogtle Nuclear Plant in Georgia. This event marks the beginning of a new era of nuclear development. 

Expected growth & the future of nuclear power 

The U.S. is pursuing the goal of tripling nuclear power capacity by 2050 to help power the global clean energy transition. Production is underway, starting at the Vogtle Nuclear Plant where a new fourth reactor just entered commercial operation. Reactor 4 will provide an additional 1,100 MW of clean energy to Georgia residents for the next 60-80 years. Beyond domestic nuclear development, the U.S. is also supporting global nuclear power installations in developing countries. The government is providing access to small modular reactor technology to provide a more equitable, global energy transition. 

Advancements in nuclear energy technology 

  • Small Modular Reactors (SMR): SMR technology is an upcoming innovation in nuclear power. Each piece of an SMR is manufactured in a factory and transported to sites where each piece is ready to “plug and play” upon arrival. While large, conventional reactors are completely constructed on-site, SMRs enable pieces to be delivered to more remote locations. Furthermore, their small size makes nuclear power much more scalable for smaller communities with less energy demand. 
  • Microreactors: Microreactors take SMR technology and miniaturize it for specific applications. Microreactors are small enough to be transported by truck and can produce up to 10 MW of nuclear power. While still in development, microreactors provide a promising solution to remote communities and army bases with limited electrical grid access. Microgrids could also find future applications in decarbonizing the industrial sector. 
Source: IAEA.org 

Making Progress Towards a More Sustainable Energy Future 

Innovations in clean and renewable energy illuminate the bright possibility of a net-zero emissions future. The innovations shaping the renewable energy sector make the path to sustainable, clean power easier to navigate. If you would like your business to take a step towards a sustainable future, consider making the switch to a clean energy plan. Integrity Energy’s dedicated commercial energy brokers can help you secure the most cost-effective renewable energy plan on the market. Request a free quote to shop business renewable energy plans today!