US: NREL reports solar has most potential amongst renewables

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NREL calculated the technical potential estimates for six different renewable energy technologies. By technical potential, the study "U.S. Renewable Energy Technical Potentials: A GIS-based Analysis" looks at the achievable energy generation of a particular technology given system performance, topographic limitations, environmental, and land use constraints. Economic and market factors were not taken into account.

The following results were shown:

  • Utility-scale PV (Urban): Total estimated annual technical potential in the US is 2,232 terawatt-hours (TWh). Texas and California lead the pack with the highest estimated technical potential.
  • Utility-scale PV (Rural): Total estimated annual technical potential is 280,613 TWh. This high figure is due to the relatively high power density, absence of minimum resource threshold and the availability of large swaths for development. Texas accounts for about 14%.
  • Rooftop PV: Total estimated annual technical potential is about 818 TWh. California has a high potential of 106TWh.
  • CSP: Total estimated annual technical potential 116,146 TWh. The southwest dominates the share with Texas having the highest potential of 22,786 TWh.

The report says that while not a direct comparison, given the consideration of the values not taken into account like infrastructure, policies and so on under economic and market factors, one useful point of reference for the generation potential estimate is annual electricity retail sales in the US.