Nearly 200,000 GW of Solar Possible for United States, Finds New Study

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A new study from NREL finds that solar photovoltaics and concentrating solar power could generate an enormous amount of electricity in the United States.

The report is titled, U.S. Renewable Energy Technical Potentials: A GIS-Based Analysis.

In Table 1, it provides a number of very interesting figures. Chiefly, that it is rural utility-scale solar that could be dominant in the future, with 153,000 GW of potential. Texas accounts for about 14% of all the rural solar potential for the whole country. It also has about 20% of all the concentrated solar power potential for the nation. So, it appears this single, huge state could have a very bright future in terms of solar power development, and therefore in economic growth as well.

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Typically, Texas is thought of mainly for oil and cattle, but sometime in the not so distant future, it might become a clean energy powerhouse. (These kinds of very large infrastructure changes have been speculated to have significant cultural implications. For example, the construction of a huge, underground sewer system in Victorian London was said by at least one scholar to have social psychological implications, and at the very least was a part of a different perception of public hygiene and public health.)

The same type of PV, in urban areas, they found to have a potential of 1,200 GW. Rooftop PV potential they rated at 664 GW.

Offshore wind was 4,200 GW, and enhanced geothermal was GW 4,000.  It was concentrated solar power, at 38,000 GW, that was in second place to rural utility-scale solar’s dominance.

It will be fascinating to see if the development of renewable energy in rural areas, where the potential is tremendous, will change the cultural views of some of the people there.

For example, recently, a relative and friend of hers, who is an Iowa farmer, picked me up at the airport in a new Hybrid Prius to drive us back to a tiny farming community. If some of these rural areas become the “energy basket,” so to speak, of America, will they be perceived in a more esteemed way by people living in large cities and on the coasts, who might tend to use words like ‘redneck’?

Often, these renewable energy news stories contain technical specifications and cost information, which is useful, but what about some of the cultural implications of the transition away from fossil fuels?

Every state in the US has notable solar power potential, according to the study.

Image Credit: Larry D. Moore CC BY-SA 3.0.

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Jake Richardson

Hello, I have been writing online for some time, and enjoy the outdoors. If you like, you can follow me on Twitter:

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