Using solar energy, the state of California could increase its electrical output to three to five times more than its current consumption levels.
That is what some researchers are saying, at least, according to the Washington Post. Scientists from Stanford University and the Carnegie Institute for Science have recently published a study regarding the potential growth of solar power in the state. Already one of the leading proponents of clean energy in the United States, California could potentially produce enough energy to exceed its total consumption (which includes residential, commercial, transportation, and industrial use) in 2011.
The study, published in Nature Climate Change (a sister publication of the scientific journal Nature), is welcome news to a state that is already heavily invested in renewable energy. California is part of a carbon emissions trading program with other West Coast states, and among its long-term goals is to supply one-third of its electricity from renewable resources such as solar and wind by 2020. The state also wants to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 80% by 2050.
“We’ve seen a remarkable increase in commercial and residential solar energy systems in Central California,” said Ann Pacheco, COO of JP Electric & Solar. “Homeowners save money and they help the environment; both those factors make going solar an easy decision for our clients.”
The researchers surveyed the state to find suitable land for solar panel installations. Solar panel energy, although much cleaner than traditional sources of energy like coal or oil, requires remote, flat land for maximum production. California already has several solar panel installations in its flatter, drier areas, but these installations are often far away from densely populated areas and can potentially cause damage to surrounding ecosystems.
However, other surfaces besides rural, flat land can be suitable for solar panel installation. From roofs and parking lots to farms and even golf courses, the researchers calculated that approximately 8.1% of the state’s land (which does not include federal or Native American land) is “compatible” with solar projects.
California has 13,000 square miles of this compatible land, and if implemented, solar projects could provide three to five times the amount of energy the state consumed in 2011 — and that’s not even considering the rest of the state, areas of which could technically host such installations, though not ideal.