US: 200,000 GW of solar could be installed; 4,000 TWh/a

27. July 2012 | Applications & Installations, Global PV markets, Markets & Trends, Research & Development | By:  Becky Beetz

According to a new study released by NREL, the technical potential of photovoltaics and concentrating solar power (CSP) in the U.S. amounts to just under 200,000 GW, which could generate around 399,700 TWh of energy annually.

US California solar photovoltaic installation

The states of California and Texas have been identified as having the highest technical potential for solar energy deployment.

The U.S.-based National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has published a new report – U.S. renewable Energy Technical Potentials: A GIS-Based Analysis – in which it says, technically, 154,864 of photovoltaics and 38,000 GW of CSP could be installed. This would mean, photovoltaics could generate around 483,600 terawatt hours (TWh) of energy annually, and CSP, 116,100. Refer to the table for a breakdown of the different solar technologies.


Annual generation potential (TWh)

Overall capacity potential (GW)

Urban utility-scale PV



Rural utility-scale PV



Rooftop PV






 Source: NREL

Overall, it believes rural utility-scale photovoltaics has more potential than any other renewable energy technology, due to the "relatively high power density, the absence of minimum resource threshold, and the availability of large swaths for development." Meanwhile, Texas is said to have the ability to account for around 14 percent of this 153 GW, or 280,600 TWh annual potential.

In terms of urban utility-scale photovoltaics, NREL says Texas and California have the highest estimated technical potential, due to both their strong solar resources and high populations. With significantly less estimated technical potential, it is thought that rooftop photovoltaics will be most successful in those states with higher population densities, like California.

CSP technical potential is said to be highest in the southwest of the U.S. "Texas has the highest estimated potential of 22,786 TWh, which accounts for roughly 20 percent of the entire estimated U.S. annual technical potential for CSP (116,146 TWh)," says NREL.

Read the report, which includes a breakdown of the renewable energy technical potentials of the different states.

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