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California Rooftops Could Produce Five Times More Solar Than Needed

Solar panels on California’s roofs could produce 4.8 to 6.5 times as much electricity as the state consumed in 2011, according to a new study in the journal Nature Climate Change.

“Comparing the realized, generation-based potential of solar energy technologies to the state of California’s total energy consumption further underscores the value of solar,” write Stanford researchers Rebecca Hernandez, Madison Hoffacker and Christopher Field. “The quantity of energy that could be produced solely within the built environment (that is, ‘compatible’; conferring the least land-use or land-cover change) exceeds the energy needed to meet the state’s total energy consumption.”

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The study found that “rooftop and ground-mounted photovoltaic systems on compatible spaces could generate between 10,600 and 14,600 terawatt-hours per year, and concentrating solar power systems could generate 5,947 terawatt-hours per year. Areas designated as ‘potentially compatible’ offer threefold more generation potential,” Lacey writes.

“Of course, technical potential doesn’t say much about system-wide compatibility and flexibility—and in turn, the total cost.”