How Much Land Is Needed to Power the U.S. with Solar?

Solar Panels Installation On Land in San Diego, CA

How much land would it take to power everything from the average household to the glittering signage in Times Square with nothing but the energy of the sun? Good Magazine recently calculated it would take about 11.2 million acres, or .6 percent, of land to provide the U.S. with 4 million GWh of solar power. While this is an encouraging start for solar energy companies, there’s a little more to the answer than just doing the math.

Additional Land Considerations

More land would be required for operational facilities, accessible service roads for routine maintenance, and transmission lines. The process of capturing solar power also requires separation between panel setups.

Weather Considerations

If all solar panels powering the nation were concentrated in one geographic area, what would happen when a huge storm affects that area? In addition to weather, there are seasonal fluctuations to consider.

Barriers to Land Access

It’s not so easy to find 12 million acres of free land space in the United States. There will likely be issues with protected ecological areas, animal habitats, parklands, Native American lands, and zoning regulations.

Emergency Backup

The sun only shines for so many hours a day in any given place, which means a need for emergency backup to deal with things like downtime for maintenance, cloudy days, periods of darkness, and other interruptions. Emergency facilities such as hospitals and police and fire stations would also need a backup power source.

Storage Needs

The big batteries needed to power all those solar cells would require a lot of storage. According to one estimate, about a trillion watts of battery storage capacity would be needed. The biggest facility of this type currently in the U.S. has a capacity of 27,000 KWh.

In a perfect world, the sun would provide all the energy needed for non-stop coast-to-coast power. In reality, the answer to this question provides an incentive to further encourage the adoption of safer, environmentally responsible forms of renewable energy like solar power, which is an excellent complement to wind power and similar technologies.

Learn how much residential solar panels cost when you call CES Solar San Diego at 1-855-45-COAST. Our solar experts have been helping families make the switch to sustainable energy for years and will help you get started. Call today to schedule a free consultation.