How Much Land Does Renewable Energy Require?

One critique of renewable energy systems that some critics point out is the amount of land that these systems consume. Wind turbines and solar panel fields, for example, take up large swaths of land and currently produce a small enough amount of energy that some question the current validity of renewable energy sources as the main contributor to the world’s electricity needs.

How much of this is true? Obviously renewable energy systems like wind turbines and solar panels take up space, but are they prohibitively large or inefficient? Many different studies have tried to determine just how much land would be required to power the U.S. using exclusively renewable energy.

One such example is a thought experiment from Clean Technica using numbers from 2010. Assuming a 40/40/20 ratio of wind, solar, and other forms of renewable energy, roughly 36,000 acres worth of land would be required to house all of the necessary wind turbines.

With solar photovoltaic technology, using 32 acres of land purely for solar energy generation can produce 1 gigawatt-hour of power per year, which is roughly enough to power 1,000 homes.

According to a study from MIT, powering the entire U.S. electricity demand in 2050 with solar technology would require roughly 33,000 square kilometers of land, or roughly 8 million acres if evenly spread out. However, if the nation concentrates their solar panels to the sunniest parts of the country, it would only require 12,000 square kilometers of land–roughly 3 million acres.

This is certainly a lot of land! However, it starts to look a little smaller when compared to statistics about U.S. land usage. For example, the U.S. uses roughly 10,000 square kilometers of land for golf courses, and our nation has 20,000 square kilometers of rooftops and 49,000 square kilometers of major roadways. So, while the amount of land that would be required to power the nation on solar energy seems large, it really isn’t all that much in the grand scheme of things.

Plus, these numbers assume that exclusively solar power is being used, ignoring other forms of renewable energy like wind, geothermal, and biofuels. As renewable energy technology becomes more affordable and more efficient at producing power, renewable energy will become more and more viable as our nation’s #1 source of power generation!

Do you want to learn more about what goes into renewable energy land usage? Click here for further reading on the subject from Clean Technica! And be sure to visit the rest of our blog for more energy efficiency tips and news.