Land-Use Requirements and the Per-Capita Solar Footprint for Photovoltaic Generation in the United States

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Abstract

In this report, we estimate the state-by-state per-capita "solar electric footprint" for the United States, defined as the land area required to supply all end-use electricity from solar photovoltaics (PV). We find that the overall average solar electric footprint is about 181 m2 per person in a base case scenario, with a state- and scenario-dependant range from about 50 to over 450 m2 per person. Two key factors that influence the magnitude of the state-level solar electric footprint include how industrial energy is allocated (based on location of use vs. where goods are consumed) and the assumed distribution of PV configurations (flat rooftop vs. fixed tilt vs. tracking). We also compare the solar electric footprint to a number of other land uses. For example, we find that the base case solar electric footprint is equal to less than 2% of the land dedicated to cropland and grazing in the United States, and less than the current amount of land used for corn ethanol production.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)3531-3543
Number of pages13
JournalEnergy Policy
Volume36
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - 2008

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-670-43420

Keywords

  • Ecological footprint
  • Land use
  • Solar photovoltaics

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