APR 11, 2016 5:56 PM PDT

New Estimates Show Rooftop Solar Power Could Power 40% of the US

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

As the world continues to move to cleaner sources of energy that won’t destroy our environment further than we have already, solar energy is one of the more plausible ways we can extract energy from a natural renewable energy source without releasing harmful chemicals into our atmosphere.
Along with the ideas of large solar farms in empty pastures of land, floating solar farms atop our unused water sources, and even massive energy-generating wind turbines that can fold up in large windstorms, is the idea that we could be using the many square miles of rooftops across our nations to harvest sunlight.
Since there is so much real estate up there, and loads of sunlight as well, it only seems to make sense that we should utilize all that rooftop space to collect cleaner energy for our needs.

Will rooftop solar energy one day power 40% of North America?

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) believes that harnessing the power of rooftop solar power could help to fuel at least 39% of the United States’ power needs. This equates to 1,118 gigawatts of power capacity and 1,432 terawatt hours of annual energy generation.
This estimate far exceeds previous numbers and estimates reported by NREL, and continues to make the solar energy department look better and better.
The researchers involved in the study that found these numbers used LiDAR technology to survey at least 128 cities in the United States, which helped the researchers make their rough estimate.
This estimate doesn’t even take into consideration the large number of solar farms and record-breaking floating solar farms that already exist, which would increase the number significantly higher, and again, with only 128 cities in the United States getting surveyed, the number has even more potential to grow if more realistic numbers were gathered across all cities in the United States.
In those 128 cities, it is reported that at least 83% of the rooftops had a photovoltaic-friendly environment and surrounding, but only 26% of that number had the structures suitable for adding such technology for energy generation.
The question continues: should we rely on solar power to generate much of the electricity we use every day? – From an optimist’s perspective, it certainly seems like we should, but a more skeptical perspective will lead us to realize there are still great challenges in making the switch over to solar energy 100%.

Source: NREL via Popular Science

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
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