Clean Power

Published on December 15th, 2011 | by John Farrell


Solar Power Can Fit on Existing Land

December 15th, 2011 by  

This post originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s New Rules Project.

While large-scale solar creates contention between environmental advocates and renewable energy proponents, the truth is that there are thousands of acres in already developed land where solar can easily fit.  This infographic explains a few of the many places solar power can fit, not even counting rooftops.

solar land needs

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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

  • Anonymous

    I think someone worked out a couple of years ago that if all U.S. roads had piezoelectric generators incorporated you could power the entire U.S. from road traffic. So how’s that FDR infrastructure project coming Obama?

    • Marijan Pollak

      I saw that one or something similar… Somebody was not thinking straight, since cars carrying magnets would have to spend more energy for traveling and therefore in the end burn more fuel. Contraproductive as polution would increase, and efficiency would be low, compared to direct burning of fuel to turn elčectricity generators.
      Actually, in regard to PV plates that are considered “clean” energy source, somebody calculated that in order to produce them, more “dirty” electricity would be spent than what they would be able to produce in their work life. If someone add the fact of 10% loss of efficiency per year, I wonder how it is economical to use them at all :-((

      • Anonymous

        PV “plates”, PV panels, are very good about replacing the energy it takes to manufacture them. Some silicon PV panels take less than 2 years to return their energy input, some silicon and all thin-film panels break even in less than one year.

        Long term tests of PV solar (>20 years) show a <0.2% per year loss.

        Your numbers stink.

      • vern

        Piezoelectric generators in the road do not require any magnets in the car or for that matter any modifications to the vehicle. The devices are embedded into the road and use vibration from the traffic to produce electricity.

  • Matt

    (A) , (B) Side of road, (C) Under power lines
    (A) Parking lots is great. Additional benefits of produced where used, shapes cars from the sun so they are not a oven when you get back in.
    (B) Side of road, not as good as (A) additional issue; but better than (C). There have pend posts here about all the problems with this, so I not repeat them.
    (C) This mostly private land, a portion goes over gov land. A lot of if farm and ranch land. Until you get closer to the a city then it is peoples back yard. So someone will either decide to develop PV on their land or they will not. Counting this as somehow a special opportunity for solar just makes the chart look uninformed.

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