solar-rooftop-flickreditors-blog-entry3I’ve written about the big solar — as in giant solar farms and concentrated solar plants — vs. little solar, as in smaller, and more local, rooftop solar installations on homes and business before (see ‘Is big solar better solar?’).

I’m writing about it again because the Solar Energy Industries Associaton (SEIA) here in the U.S. recently published the results of a national poll which showed that, among other things, Americans support building solar installations on public lands by a 3-to-1 margin.

While it’s nice to see widespread support for solar, it’s a little bit disconcerting that:

a) SEIA seems to be pushing for solar on public lands;
b) that much of the American public might think that giant solar installations in fragile ecosystems are the best, and even the only, way for the U.S. to go solar.

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They aren’t.

In fact, according to a study conducted by Navigant Consulting, the U.S. could cover 75% percent of its entire electricity use with rooftop solar on homes and businesses.

And then there is the vast — and I do mean vast — potential of the millions of square miles of parking lots in the U.S. which could be covered by solar carports.

When you add the solar carport + local rooftop space together, there is almost certainly enough, and likely more than enough, space upon which to pitch an American solar tent that would produce enough energy to meet America’s electricity needs. And, of course, there’s Scott Brusaw’s solar roadway proposal, which would turn American highways into the solar-power producers for the nation.

Rooftop, parking lot, and roadway spaces are far better places to pitch America’s solar tent than public lands for many reasons. Here are just a few:

  • Most significantly, rooftop, parking lot and roadway solar pitch the solar tent in places that have already been environmentally compromised.
  • In the case of rooftop and parking lot solar, electricity will be produced right where it’s needed — it won’t have to travel hundreds of miles to where it’s being used. This means less money needs to be spent on building out the grid in distant, largely unpopulated areas. Brusaw’s solar roadways proposal is also potentially similar on this count, depending on where the solar roadways are located.
  • Rooftop solar in particular is far more democractic than giant utility scale solar on, or off of, public lands. Individuals and small business create power for themselves where they need it — and they control it. This contrasts sharply with the top-down, giant utility model that large solar installations require (and, of course, it’s a big reason why utilities and other electricity power players prefer Big to little solar — it keeps them in power in the power production and delivery business.

In sum, not only could rooftop, parking lot and solar roadway solar provide enough electricity to power America, this approach would be both better for the environment — it would keep our public lands unscathed, at least from solar — and for individuals, who would finally have more power, and say, in how, when, and where they get their power!

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