# Arizona’s solar power potential

by YankeeJim | April 16, 2011 at 06:44 am
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## Solar power | Photo 02

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How much solar energy could be generated from installing solar thermal collectors along both sides of US Route 10 crossing Arizona? Let’s say there are 1000 miles of roadway and if both sides contained solar collectors, end-to-end, that is 2,000 miles of collection.

Solar thermal energy (STE)[1] is a technology for harnessing solar energy for thermal energy (heat). Solar thermal collectors are classified by the USA Energy Information Administration as low-, medium-, or high-temperature collectors. Low temperature collectors are flat plates generally used to heat swimming pools. Medium-temperature collectors are also usually flat plates but are used for heating water or air for residential and commercial use. High temperature collectors concentrate sunlight using mirrors or lenses and are generally used for electric power production. STE is different from photovoltaics, which convert solar energy directly into electricity. While only 600 megawatts of solar thermal power is up and running worldwide in October 2009 according to Dr David Mills of Ausra, another 400 megawatts is under construction and there are 14,000 megawatts of the more serious concentrating solar thermal (CST) projects being developed.[2]

Let’s say parabolic collectors are installed along the highway, how many megawatts of energy can be generated and made available on the power grid? I don’t know the answer and don’t know how to compute it, but somebody does. I hypothesize that there is enough solar energy in the Southwest to power the nation.

“Estimating Solar Electric (PV) System Size to Replace a Specified Amount of Utility (grid) electricity

PV System Capacity Required (kW of PV) can be roughly calculated as follows:

Annual electricity usage = Monthly Usage x 12 months. Electricity usage is express in kilowatt hours (kWH)

KW of PV = (Annual Usage) / (78% x kWh/kW-year from Solar Radiance chart below x 365 days)”

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