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Wind & Solar: The New Cash Crops

October 29th, 2020

We’re living in an era of big numbers and rapid shifts. In a matter of weeks, the pandemic transformed the lives of billions all over the world. In Congress, billion-dollar spending packages have given way to trillion-dollar stimulus measures.

This is a time of big numbers in the energy domain as well. For example, meeting the emissions-reduction goals contained in the House of Representatives’ Congressional Action Plan implies trillions of dollars of investment in clean energy technologies, including wind and solar energy projects, in the coming decades.

Because of the remarkable drop in clean energy technology costs, it is now clear that this level of wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) project investment will lower, not raise, electricity bills. The 2035 Report a detailed study from the University of California–Berkeley and GridLab, illustrates one possible evolution of the United States’ electric grid towards 90 percent decarbonization by 2035 at a cost lower than today’s system.

But what does this mean for the communities that host these projects? Wind and solar projects will need to be sited somewhere. That “somewhere” is, with few exceptions, in rural America. To help contextualize the implications of this investment for rural areas, we use the 2035 Report’s analysis results to dig into the forecasted rural renewable build-out and make some comparisons of this investment with other economic activities in rural communities.

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