The report, “Efficient use of land to meet sustainable energy needs” was published in Nature Climate Change, and found that there is enough space in the state suitable for solar power to power three to five Californias.
"The deployment of renewable energy systems, such as solar energy, to achieve universal access to electricity, heat and transportation, and to mitigate climate change is arguably the most exigent challenge facing humans today," the report explained. "However, the goal of rapidly developing solar energy systems is complicated by land and environmental constraints, increasing uncertainty about the future of the global energy landscape."
The study was conducted by researchers at the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University, and focused on solar generation from photovoltaic (PV) cells and concentrating solar power (CSP). The researchers looked at the geography of California’s land to see the compatibility of the land in relation to PV and CSP generation, as well as proximity to humans. The report found that 8.1 percent of the land was the suitable for solar installations — 10,535 square miles for PV and 2,422 square miles for CSP installations.
The report based their figures partially on the proximity to human activity. The report explained, "Technical potential increases with increasing distance from existing transmission corridors and road infrastructure up to approximately 30 km and 8 km, respectively."
California’s total yearly energy usage in 2011 was 2,231 terawatt-hours (tWh), and the report found that PV generation could provide 14,600 tWh, and CSP generation could provide around 6,000 tWh.
California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard has a goal of 33 percent energy usage from renewables by 2020, and a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent between 1990 and 2050. In 2012, 22 percent of energy use in the state was from renewable sources. Because California has taken many steps to be an early adopter of renewable energy, the report found that solar has the potential to be even more of a viable source of energy in the state.
– read the report