Saturday, June 13, 2009

Arizona Solar Electric Watts per Capita

Arizona, even with its extraordinarily abundant solar resource, delivers only a meager three watts of nominal photovoltaic installed capacity per capita. Three watts for each person in Arizona.

From the inverse perspective, each 100-watt photovoltaic module in Arizona is shared by thirty-three people. The smallest supplemental solar electric system that proves economical for a typical home is approximately 1,000 watts. An Arizona home with ten, 100-watt modules on its roof would feel quite crowded sheltering 330 people. In Arizona today, satisfying the demands of 330 housemates would require a large amount of electricity generated by distant coal and nuclear power plants.

Arizona generates approximately 37 percent of its electricity from coal, 32 percent from natural gas, 25 percent from nuclear, 5 percent from hydroelectric, and less than 1 percent from renewables[1]. While each Arizonan annually receives about seven (7) kilowatt-hours of electricity from photovoltaics, each receives more than six thousand kilowatt-hours from coal, five thousand from natural gas, and another four thousand from nuclear. All tolled, more than two orders of magnitude more electricity is delivered to Arizonans from sources other than solar.

33 Arizonans with their solar module

Three dozen Arizonans share their single 100-watt module.

This situation exists today despite the fact that solar electric energy has long been an excellent investment. Repressive rate plan structures have defeated the value of solar energy for many years; and defeated it most for those with the greatest capital resources.

[1] Energy Information Administration (

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