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Renewable Energy Economic Potential

Economic potential, one measure of renewable energy generation potential, is the subset of the technical potential where the cost required to generate electricity is less than the revenue available.

Illustration that shows economic potential grow smaller at each level from Resource to Technical to Economic to Market.

Estimating Renewable Energy Economic Potential in the United States: Methodology and Initial Results describes a geospatial analysis method to estimate the economic potential of several renewable energy resources in the United States. The assessment is conducted at a high geospatial resolution (more than 150,000 technology-specific sites in the continental United States) to capture variation in local resource, costs, and revenue potential. This metric can be a useful screening factor for understanding the economic viability of renewable generation technologies in specific locations. In contrast to many common estimates of renewable energy potential, economic potential does not consider market dynamics, customer demand, or most policy drivers that may incent renewable energy generation.

This work presents one method for assessing economic potential. The preliminary results are intended to demonstrate the utility of the method and serve as an initial estimate of the range of economic potential as well as an exploration of the factors that influence that potential.