US Could be a Solar Nation by 2026

If the US had installed solar at the same pace as Germany,  most of the 10 Mountain West states could be entirely powered by solar today, and the US could be a 100% solar nation by 2026.

Furthermore, making the US a 100% solar nation would create nearly 10 million jobs and add as much as $450 billion to the economy. 

That’s according to an analysis by John Farrell on Energy Self-Reliant States for the Institute for Local Self Reliance.

He points to the fact that, in the past two years alone, Germany has installed over 10,000 megawatts of solar panels, enough  to power two million American homes. 

Instead, the Obama administration’s attempt to further the solar industry is under attack by House Republicans as "a war on oil," and US subsidies for renewables lag far behind that of other nations, and don’t even come close to those for fossil fuel and nuclear industries.

In a 2009 report which he updated last year, Farrell wrote, "At least three-fifths of the 50 states could meet all their internal electricity needs from renewable energy generated inside their borders.  Every state with a renewable energy mandate can meet it with in-state renewable fuels."

That report looked at a combination of renewable energy sources, but his most recent analysis focuses on solar. Farrell observes that 80% of the solar installed in Germany is small-scale and on rooftops, 100 kilowatts or smaller.

In the US, the rooftop solar potential ranges from 19%-52%, depending on the state. The highest percentages are in California and Nevada.

Beyond rooftops, there’s no reason to cover vast amounts of undeveloped land in the US, he says. "On either side of 4 million miles of roads, the US has approximately 60 million acres (90,000 square miles) of right of way. If 10% of that were used, over 2 million megawatts of roadside solar PV could provide close to 100% of the electricity consumption in the country."

For every megawatt of solar installed, as many as nine solar jobs are created. The economic multiplier is significantly higher for locally owned, small projects.

"The Germans have found the profitable marriage between their energy and environmental policy," Farrell writes. "It’s time for America to discover the same opportunity."

In August, a solar highway project broke ground in Oregon and all the components for the project are Oregon-made.

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