U.S.: 200,000 GW of solar power could be installed

The study considered five different types of renewable energy generating technologies – solar energy (photovoltaic, concentrated solar power), wind power, biopower, geothermal energy and hydropower.

Solar power technologies were further subdivided into utility-scale photovoltaics for urban and rural areas, rooftop photovoltaics and concentrating solar power.  Texas and California are the biggest winners in this category, having the most potential generating capacity using several of the technologies surveyed.

Rural utility-scale PV leads all other technologies in technical potential due to a relatively high power density, the absence of minimum resource threshold and the availability of large swaths for development.  Texas has the largest potential with 38,993 terawatt-hours or 14 percent of the entire estimated U.S. potential of 280,613 TWh.

Texas also has the highest estimated potential for C.S.P. with 22,789 TWh or 20 percent of the entire estimated U.S. annual technical potential of 116, 146 TWh.

Texas shares the crown with California for the highest estimated technical potential for urban utility-scale PV.  The total estimated annual potential of urban utility-scale PV is 2,232 TWh.

California takes the lead when talking about the potential of rooftop PV due to its mix of a high populations coupled with good solar resource. California has the potential to produce 106 TWh, while the total annual technical potential of the U.S. is 818 TWh.

The analysis of the wind sector was divided into two categories: onshore and offshore.

Again, Texas was cited as having the highest estimated annual potential for onshore wind power with 5,552 TWh or 17 percent of the entire estimated annual potential of 32,784 TWh.

When it came to offshore, however, Hawaii was the biggest winner with 2,837 TWh or 17 percent of the total annual potential of 16,975 TWh.

When looking at biopower, the analysis considered solid and gaseous biomass with solid biomass accounting for 82 percent of a total of 400 TWh.  Gaseous biomass has around 88 TWh of potential.

Geothermal energy technologies included hydrothermal power systems and enhanced geothermal systems.

Total potential for hydrothermal was 71 TWh for existing sites in 13 states, with 237 TWh of undiscovered resources.

Total potential for enhanced geothermal systems was 31,344 TWh, with most located in the westernmost portion of the country. The Rocky Mountain States and the Great Basin had the best potential with around 17, 414 TWh.


A new study of renewable energy’s technical potential finds that every state in the nation has the space and resource to generate clean energy.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory produced the study, U.S. RE Technical Potential, which looks at available renewable resources in each state. It establishes an upper-boundary estimate of development potential. Economic or market restraints would factor into what projects might actually be deployed.

The report is valuable for decision-makers and utility executives because it compares estimates across six renewable energy technologies and unifies assumptions and methods. It shows the achievable energy generation of a particular technology given resource availability – solar, wind, geothermal availability, etc. — system performance, topographic limitations, and environmental and land-use constraints.

The study includes state-level maps and tablesMicrosoft PowerPoint containing available land area (square kilometers), installed capacity (gigawatts), and electric generation (gigawatt-hours) for each technology.

“Decision-makers using the study will get a sense of scale regarding the potential for renewables, and which technologies are worth examining,” said NREL’s Anthony Lopez, a co-author of the study. “Energy modelers also will find the study valuable.”

“This is intended to be a living document,” NREL’s Donna Heimiller, another co-author, added. “We’ll be frequently updating the information as we get more data.”

For more information go to the NREL website: http://www.nrel.gov/gis/re_potential.html.

NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy’s primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for DOE by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.