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Rooftop solar could provide 40 percent of US electricity

A new study by the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory claims that rooftop solar alone could meet 40 percent of current US electricity demand.  The figure has been:

“revised upwards by more than 80 per cent since the last study in 2008, mostly because of improvements of module efficiencies, building availability and solar modelling.”

Sunny California could generate as much as 75 percent of its electricity from solar, while even northern states like Maine could generate 60 percent.  The reason for this is as much to do with demand as with the potential of solar:

“The worst performing state – Wyoming – has the highest average households electricity consumption, at more than 30kWh a day.”

Unfortunately – as is the case with too many renewable energy stories – this is about potential.  It deals with what we could do rather than what we will do.  It is doubtful that even a relatively prosperous country like the USA has anything like the resources to actually generate half of its energy from rooftop solar.  In Germany, where the government has actively promoted a switch to renewables, consumers have faced significant price increases as costs are passed on by the energy companies.

Only when the price of Grid electricity rises and the cost of installing rooftop solar systems fall to the point where individual households see them as a desirable investment will we begin to scratch the surface of generating potential.  And by then we may well lack the energy and resources to do the job.

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