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Every state has potential for R.E. generation – NREL

Every state in the United States has available location and resources for generating clean energy according to a study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

NREL took a look at the achievable energy generation each state could have given resource availability, topographic limitations and environmental and land-use constraints of each locality.

"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."

The study includes state-level maps and tables containing available land area, installed capacity and electric generation for each technology.

The study considered five different types of renewable energy generating technologies – solar, wind, biopower, geothermal 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.

For Hydropower, the total annual potential is 259 TWh, with most of it located in the Northwest and Alaska. These two regions account for roughly 27 percent of the entire U.S. annual potential with a combined total of 69 TWh annually. (Katrice R. Jalbuena)

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