Clean Power

Published on August 23rd, 2011 | by John Farrell


Why We Should Democratize the Electricity System (Part 1)

August 23rd, 2011 by  

The Potential for Distributed Generation


Most U.S. states have enormous potential for renewable electricity production that could be developed in a distributed, democratic fashion.  In our 2009 report, Energy Self-Reliant States, we provided maps of the renewable energy potential by state based on current electricity demand.  The following map illustrates the potential state self-sufficiency from rooftop solar PV alone.

Almost every state could get 20 percent or more of its electricity from rooftop solar.  This does not include the electricity generated from ground-mounted arrays.  Sufficient sunshine falls on every state to meet all its electricity needs from the sun provided that enough energy storage was also available.  The following map shows the portion of a state’s land area that would be required to meet all its electricity needs with solar power.  California’s 0.32% is equivalent to about half of Orange County; New York’s 0.66% is equivalent to less than half of Long Island.  While a fully renewable, distributed grid would benefit from greater diversity than just solar power, the map provides a picture of the potential to power every state’s grid with local, distributed electricity.

State land area required to maximize solar PV:

The exponential growth rate of distributed generation like solar PV suggests that even if distributed generation makes up a small portion of generation now, its growth profile suggests that within the planning horizons of many utilities, it will comprise a significant and possibly majority portion of generation.

Germany, for example, deployed over 10,000 MW of solar PV projects in the past two years, over 80 percent on rooftops.  Distributed generation is poised for massive growth in the United States.

To read more about democratizing the electricity system, click through:

–>>Page 4: References


<<– Page 2: Why Distributed Generation?


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About the Author

directs the Democratic Energy program at ILSR and he focuses on energy policy developments that best expand the benefits of local ownership and dispersed generation of renewable energy. His seminal paper, Democratizing the Electricity System, describes how to blast the roadblocks to distributed renewable energy generation, and how such small-scale renewable energy projects are the key to the biggest strides in renewable energy development.   Farrell also authored the landmark report Energy Self-Reliant States, which serves as the definitive energy atlas for the United States, detailing the state-by-state renewable electricity generation potential. Farrell regularly provides discussion and analysis of distributed renewable energy policy on his blog, Energy Self-Reliant States (, and articles are regularly syndicated on Grist and Renewable Energy World.   John Farrell can also be found on Twitter @johnffarrell, or at

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