U.S. manufacturing takes up a lot of energy, but there’s untapped potential in solar power for that sector, new research finds. A study looked at how installing solar panels throughout manufacturing sites could meet a third of that sector’s power needs.
Researchers used a survey from the Department of Energy and compared states to understand where rooftop solar could best supply electricity needs for manufacturing. They found that companies that focus on textiles, apparel, and furniture would benefit the most from transitioning to solar energy.
Matthew Eckelman, an associate professor at Northeastern University, told Earther that he and other researchers used the DOE survey to find regional estimates “of how much electricity each type of manufacturing uses per unit of floor space.” They determined that states in the Southwest, including Arizona, California, Nevada, and New Mexico, received enough sunlight to meet a large portion of energy needs. During spring and summer months, some companies could use solar for up to 40% of their electricity needs, the study found.
Eckelman said that solar is a viable option because so many manufacturing sites have flat rooftops and expansive facilities that have plenty of room for panels. The cost of installing panels has declined over time, which has lowered some of the barriers to using that as a source of energy. But, despite the potential from renewable energy sources, “less than 0.1% of the electricity required by [the] manufacturing sector is generated on-site through renewable sources currently,” according to the study.
More: Rooftop Solar Panels Could Power a Third of U.S. Manufacturing, Study Finds