Solar Power in The United States - Availability

Availability

A report by the United States Department of Energy found available domestic resources from solar (the world's most abundant energy resource) accessible theoretically regardless of cost represented 586,687 Quadrillion BTUs (Quads). Coal represented the second largest resource, a distant 38,147 Quads. Predictions of how much solar power was economically feasible to collect amounted to 352 quads, compared with 5,266 quads from coal. The estimated that 95% of this economically recoverable solar energy (in 1993) was from burning biomass. The assumptions used in the report were based on a predicted 2010 price of a barrel of oil being $38, and multiplied annual renewable resources by 30 for comparison with non-renewable resources. The total annual energy consumption of the United States in 2007 was approximately 100 Quads, less than 0.5% of what is theoretically available from sunlight.

A 2012 report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory described technically available renewable energy resources for each state and estimated that urban utility scale photovoltaics could supply 2,232 TWh/year, rural utility scale PV 280,613 TWh/year, rooftop PV 818 TWh/year, and CSP 116,146 TWh/year, for a total of almost 400,000 TWh/year, 100 times current consumption of 3,856 TWh in 2011. Onshore wind potential is estimated at 32,784 TWh/year, and offshore wind at 16,976 TWh/year. The total available from all renewable resources is estimated at 481,963 TWh/year.

Solar potential from very large scale solar power plants
State Land used (sq mi) Potential (GWp) Annual generation (TWh)
Arizona 19,279 2,468 5,837
California 6,853 877 2,075
Colorado 2,124 272 643
Nevada 5,589 715 1,692
New Mexico 15,156 1,940 4,588
Texas 1,162 149 351
Utah 3,564 456 1,079
Total 53,727 6,877 16,266

Total generation in the United States is about 3,800 TWh/year.

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