The 30 cities with the most potential energy efficiency savings could cut a combined 261,107 gigawatt hours (GWh). To put that in perspective, that is the equivalent of shutting down dozens of dirty fossil fuel plants. That energy savings is also the equivalent of nearly 241 desert-destroying solar projects like BrightSource Energy's Ivanpah Solar facility, which has already decimated 5.6 square miles of pristine Mojave Desert habitat.
|[click on image to expand] This map by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows potential savings from energy efficiency across the United States.|
It is just as easy to overlook the energy generation potential in our cities. Rooftops, parking lots, and other already-disturbed lands. Another set of graphics from NREL shows how many rooftops were adorned with solar panels since 2000. Even without proper incentives, the market has spread considerably, adding over 160,000 installations and generating over 2,600 megawatts. That is more than five times the output of the destructive Ivanpah Solar project in the desert.
|White dots represent rooftop or other local solar panel installations. You can watch the video at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's website.|
Environmental groups have lined up to support giant industrial-scale solar and wind projects on wildlands, such as a Wyoming wind facility that is expected to kill as many as 64 golden eagles each year, yet we have so much more potential to make our country more sustainable before sacrificing such natural treasures.