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What if we covered every warehouse in the Mountain West with solar panels?

A bird’s-eye view of a warehouse covered in solar panels.
Courtesy Of Solect
If all of America’s warehouses were covered in solar panels like this one seen here, it could produce enough solar electricity to power nearly 19.4 million homes each year.

A new report reveals how much clean energy could be generated from putting solar panels on every warehouse in the nation.

In the U.S. there are more than 450,000 warehouses, which collectively have almost 16.4 billion square feet of rooftop space. Yet only a fraction of America’s warehouses are covered in solar panels.

If all of them went solar, it could produce 185.6 terawatt-hours (TWh) of solar electricity each year, which could power nearly 19.4 million homes, according to an analysis by the Environment America Research and Policy Center.

In the Mountain West, Colorado has the highest potential, with 8,757 warehouses that could power 372,000 homes. Nevada’s 4,746 warehouses could electrify 253,000 homes and Utah’s 5,035 warehouses 241,000 homes.

From there, the region has a significant drop-off in its warehouse solar potential. New Mexico has enough to power 86,000 homes, followed by Idaho (61,000 homes), Montana (16,000) and Wyoming (14,000).

Johanna Neumann, senior director at Environment America, said tapping warehouse rooftops for solar energy is a no-brainer.

“Not only is it going to reduce pollution, but also has the potential to make our electric grid a lot more resilient and reliable,” said Neumann, adding that it would also help preserve open space in the West. “Every solar panel that we put on a warehouse rooftop, is a solar panel that we don’t need to put out in the desert.”

According to the report, generating the full solar power potential from the nation’s warehouses would eliminate more than 112 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. This would be equal to removing more than 24 million gasoline powered passenger vehicles from the road for a year, or taking 30 coal-fired power plants offline.

Neumann urges government officials to support solar-friendly policies and incentives that reduce the time and money it takes for companies to go solar.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Kaleb is an award-winning journalist and KUNR’s Mountain West News Bureau reporter. His reporting covers issues related to the environment, wildlife and water in Nevada and the region.
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