How Many Solar Panels To Power the US & Every State? See Full Breakdown

Written by Georgette Kilgore

Solar Panels | April 1, 2024

With the debate about clean energy always a priority, many people wonder how many solar panels to power the US?

In other words, is it even possible to have an energy grid that would be solely generated by the sun?

The U.S. consumes a lot of energy, second only to China, but even though the U.S. has clean energy standards that China does not have in place, bringing down emissions from fossil fuels could be assisted by solar energy.

Certainly, building solar grids in places like China and other countries that burn dirty fuel to generate power without regulation would be an excellent solution to a massive amount of carbon emissions.

But, how many solar panels to power the US, and how would replacing current energy structures impact the environment compared to existing ones?

Knowing how much land (eco-cost) and production would be needed to set up solar grids would be the first step. You can also focus on the household energy needs of each state in comparison with the amount of sunlight hours it receives.

This guide breaks down the energy estimations for each state, and explains how many solar panels would be required to replace fossil fuels in the U.S.

How Many Solar Panels Would It Take To Power the US?

The best way to determine how many solar panels to power the US is to account for the daily power consumption of each household.

The EIA states that the country needed about 4 trillion kWh last year; on average, each house uses almost 11,000 kWh annually.

(Image: Rabenspiegel14)

About 20% of this power comes from renewable energy sources like the sun and wind, but according to experts, this rate could rise to 56% by 2050.7 Therefore, everyone uses about 33 kWh daily.8

Another critical consideration is how much energy the panels produce daily.

Since the country uses about 4,000 billion kWh to sustain its entire population for a year, dividing it by the number of days gives 2,750 million kW.

Therefore, panels must produce the same hourly rate to power the country.

The calculations show that the US will run on 7.85 billion solar panels, emitting 350W an hour. Suppose you consider the considerations when determining how many solar panels you need.

In that case, the country will need more if the massive farm is located in low-sunlight regions or the panels are low quality.

How Many Solar Panels To Power the U.S. By State

Each state has its own specific energy needs. When using household numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of solar panels per state varies as well.

Keep in mind, these number of panels are for households and do not account for business electricity, production and other infrastructure.

 State Number of Households kWh Electricity How Many Solar Panels? Alabama 1,902,983 20,932,813,000 47,574,575 Alaska 260,561 2,866,171,000 6,514,025 Arizona 2,683,557 29,519,127,000 67,088,925 Arkansas 1,158,460 12,743,060,000 28,961,500 California 13,217,586 145,393,446,000 330,439,650 Colorado 2,227,932 24,507,252,000 55,698,300 Connecticut 1,397,324 15,370,564,000 34,933,100 Delaware 381,097 4,192,067,000 9,527,425 Florida 8,157,420 89,731,620,000 203,935,500 Georgia 3,885,371 42,739,081,000 97,134,275

 State Number of Households kWh Electricity How Many Solar Panels? Hawaii 478,413 5,262,543,000 11,960,325 Idaho 657,101 7,228,111,000 16,427,525 Illinois 4,930,255 54,232,805,000 123,256,375 Indiana 2,622,601 28,848,611,000 65,565,025 Iowa 1,275,893 14,034,823,000 31,897,325 Kansas 1,139,738 12,537,118,000 28,493,450 Kentucky 1,748,475 19,233,225,000 43,711,875 Louisiana 1,748,688 19,235,568,000 43,717,200 Maine 571,064 6,281,704,000 14,276,600 Maryland 2,294,270 25,236,970,000 57,356,750

 State Number of Households kWh Electricity How Many Solar Panels? Massachusetts 271,448 2,985,928,000 6,786,200 Michigan 3,976,729 43,744,019,000 99,418,225 Minnesota 2,229,100 24,520,100,000 55,727,500 Mississippi 1,108,670 12,195,370,000 27,716,750 Missouri 2,433,819 26,772,009,000 60,845,475 Montana 436,481 4,801,291,000 10,912,025 Nebraska 766,887 8,435,757,000 19,172,175 Nevada 1,141,952 12,561,472,000 28,548,800 New Hampshire 540,498 5,945,478,000 13,512,450 New Jersey 3,397,156 37,368,716,000 84,928,900

 State Number of Households kWh Electricity How Many Solar Panels? New Mexico 797,596 8,773,556,000 19,939,900 New York 7,530,150 82,831,650,000 188,253,750 North Carolina 4,034,684 44,381,524,000 100,867,100 North Dakota 316,542 3,481,962,000 7,913,550 Ohio 4,754,161 52,295,771,000 118,854,025 Oklahoma 1,503,868 16,542,548,000 37,596,700 Oregon 1,658,091 18,239,001,000 41,452,275 Pennsylvania 5,147,783 56,625,613,000 128,694,575 Rhode Island 426,769 4,694,459,000 10,669,225 South Carolina 1,976,447 21,740,917,000 49,411,175

 State Number of Households kWh Electricity How Many Solar Panels? South Dakota 345,779 3,803,569,000 8,644,475 Tennessee 2,664,791 29,312,701,000 66,619,775 Texas 10,239,341 112,632,751,000 255,983,525 Utah 1,033,651 11,370,161,000 25,841,275 Vermont 262,514 2,887,654,000 6,562,850 Virginia 3,248,528 35,733,808,000 81,213,200 Washington 2,931,841 32,250,251,000 73,296,025 West Virginia 711,352 7,824,872,000 17,783,800 Wisconsin 2,401,818 26,419,998,000 60,045,450 Wyoming 230,653 2,537,183,000 5,766,325

How Many Square Miles of Solar Panels To Power the US?

Estimating how many solar panels to power the US and the size of land they will occupy can be quite complex because there are several more factors to consider. Solar farm income per acre helps estimate earnings from panels based on the land size, but first, you must account for the wattage of each of the panels, the sunlight hours of the location, and other conditions.

Different answers emerge from these assumptions, but experts can estimate everything by comparing it with standard solar panels. First, the 2013 report by NREL (National Renewable Energy Labs) states that you need 3.4 acres of panels to produce one Gigawatt hour for a year.9

The US needs four petawatt hours annually, meaning 13,600,000 acres/ 21,250 square miles or panels (Nussey, 2018). It may seem excessive initially, but not when you consider it.

For instance, this is only 145 miles aside from the country’s 3,797,000 square miles, translating to half a percent of the country’s size. Besides, according to experts, the country may need less than that for solar panel installation.

If you take the high solar panel efficiency, maximum sunlight hours in various regions, and massive rooftop coverage, you will realize that the US will run on only 10,000 square miles of solar panels.

How Many Solar Panels To Power the US? Cost and Area Implications

Now that it is clear how many solar panels to power the US, the next automatic question is whether it is practical. Can you fit over 7 billion solar panels in one place and expect them to work effectively to run an entire country?

Unfortunately, it will take more time and expertise to realize this. For one, covering over 10,000 square miles of land can work, but considering the sunlight peak hours.

If in the same region, it will not maximize the full potential of the sunlight hours; the most effective solution would be to disperse the panels across various locations in the country.

(Image: Gregroose15)

Also, considering how much do solar panels cost, you may assume that they will be expensive to install. Luckily, their costs have plummeted over the last few years, making them more affordable.

This endeavor would cost the country about 23 billion dollars but save money in the long run, unlike non-renewable energy sources.

Tesla Solar Roof: A Breakthrough in Solar Energy Tech

Thanks to the high demand and supply of solar power equipment, more and more homeowners opt for renewable energy. Besides, the federal tax credits are also viable, making panel installation more accessible.

Tesla is one of the companies that incorporated solar power into their charging systems. Depending on the car’s model and other factors, charging Tesla with solar panels requires about 10,300 W panels, and you don’t have to use electricity from your home or charging station.

The firm has also dived into the solar panel business and created a unique solar roof that doesn’t stick out like standard solar panels. Anyone can mistake it for a common roof, and the best part is that it comes with a solid 25-year warranty.

It’s a win-win if you want to replace your roof and switch to a clean and more affordable energy source. However, the high price tag is the deal breaker with the Tesla solar roof, and some users argue that it is more expensive than buying a new roof and fitting new solar panels.

The main advantage is that the roof is very effective, producing 95% of its power after five years and more than 85% after 25 years. It makes it highly competitive, unlike warranties from other manufacturers considering how long do solar panels last.

Elon Musk Solar Panels Math

According to Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO, the United States can entirely rely on solar power without using massive land. He stated that 20% efficient solar panels could help reduce land use to only 10,000 square miles, almost Lake Erie’s size.5

He reiterates that the country can run on solar panels covering a relatively small portion of Texas or Nevada, translating to 100 by 100 miles of land space covered in solar panels. It is equivalent to a small square on the country’s map, and to put it in perspective, it refers to 10% of Rhode Island, the country’s smallest state.

Elon’s calculations also factor in battery storage, making solar power more sustainable and increasing market demand. However, this solar power trend doesn’t account for whether the battery can provide 24/7 power to the entire country and doesn’t consider the maintenance needs and other essentials that will keep the system running.6

How Many Solar Panels To Power a House?

You may ask how many solar panels you need to power your house.

The most convenient way is to seek professionals to tell you how many panels you need or use solar panel calculator software online.

(Image: Aszak11)

Feeding the necessary information will help the systems decide how many panels you need within less than a minute. Alternatively, you can calculate it using a few details.

• Annual Electricity Usage: This rate refers to how much power the house consumes per year, in kilowatt-hours. It is the contribution of all household appliances, and according to the Energy Information Administration,1 each house uses around 11,000 kWh a year.2
• Panel Wattage: Knowing how much power your panels emit, you can approximate how many of them you need. There are various types of solar panels, and most produce 250-400W or an average of 300W.
• Production Ratios: Another factor to consider is the production ratio regarding the power output and the system’s size.

Multiplying the system size by the production ratio and the panel wattage gives you the approximate number you need. The result is approximately 20-25 panels for each home.

How Many Solar Panels Do I Need?

The most common question from first-time solar panel users is how many solar panels do I need?

The number usually varies based on each user because every household has specific electricity usage.

(Image: BLACKDOTENERGY12)

How much you should buy depends on the factors below.

• Your current electricity bill: If high, you have more electrical appliances or more people at home, meaning you will need more panels.
• Annual power usage: Similarly, if you have a high power usage, you will likely use more solar panels to cater to the high demand.
• Daily sunlight hours: If you have more sunlight in your region, you don’t need as many solar panels as another user receiving fewer hours.
• Roof size: A small roof limits you from installing more solar panels; however, if you have a massive roof, there is more room to set up as many panels as you need.
• Panel efficiency: Dealing with high-quality solar equipment is more convenient since you are certain of a high power output even with fewer panels.

Factors Affecting How Many Solar Panels Are Needed To Power an Average House

The number of solar panels necessary to run your household depends on several factors.

(Image: Mcdelange13)

Below are the considerations to make when deciding how many panels to buy.

• Panel Efficiency: Experts recommend having an extra 25% panels on your roof to prepare for fewer sunlight hours or poor weather. You will need more if your region experiences heavy rainfall, snowfall, and cloud cover.
• Panel Wattage: Most panels range between 150-300W, implying that you will need more if you go for the low-quality versions, but you won’t need as much if you have very efficient, high-power options.
• Panel Size: Before buying a solar panel kit, it is crucial to understand the size of standard solar panel because it will help calculate how many will fit on your roof. When consulting with solar power companies, the staff must first measure your roof to determine how many it can accommodate.
• Panel Cost: Your budget is another factor to consider when choosing how many solar panels to use;3 if you want to invest more in the setup, you can buy as many as you want.

What Is the Solar Panel Industry Demand in the USA?

The demand for solar energy globally has increased in the last decade, all thanks to favorable government policies and manufacturing practices. It is a go-to for many homeowners who want to be immune from power outages.

The buying price of solar panels has reduced to 70% over the last few years, leading to increased demand.4

Experts also estimate that there will be more installations in the next few years due to government intervention and increased supply: one in seven homes will have a PV system on the roof.

Another advantage of the high demand for solar energy is that it will provide more jobs in the US. Although the sector is yet to reach its potential, there is currently a record high level of solar energy consumption in the country.

 Year Solar Energy Consumption (Trillion Btu) 2006 61 2007 66 2008 74 2009 78 2010 91 2011 112 2012 159 2013 225 2014 337 2015 427 2016 570 2017 777 2018 915 2019 1,017 2020 1,212 2021 1,501

The figures above show that the demand for solar energy has increased over the last decade, with the highest rate recorded in 2021.

How Many Solar Panels To Power the US Vs Grid System

Electricity usually travels through the grid system from power plants to people’s homes. However, in recent years, rolling blackouts are becoming more common.

But, to replace the current system with solar panels would be a massive undertaking. Just to power the residential households is a lot.

Differences Between Solar and Grid Power

Before estimating how many solar panels to power the US, it is crucial to check the ups and downs of this renewable energy compared to grid power.10

• Ease of Access: While solar energy comes straight to your home by converting sun rays to power, energy from the grid must come from your service provider. Solar is more desirable for some homeowners because they don’t pay for the service and don’t rely on another party for power consumption.
• Installation Cost: The high initial cost is one of the hindrances to more people adopting solar power. You must first buy the full kit (panels, batteries, inverters, etc.) and then call experts to help with installation. Unlike obtaining power from the grid, you no longer have to worry about electricity bills, only invest once, and you can obtain power for decades. Besides, you can also connect solar power and the grid to help offset your other utility bills.
• Renewability: The traditional grid distributes some power from fossil fuels. Renewable energy sources like solar have the ability to continue, but do require more manufacturing.
• Reliability: Solar and grid power has one flaw, weather interruption. Since solar energy comes from the sun, bad weather, like heavy cloud cover and rainfall, can interfere with the panels’ energy output. Similarly, the grid system may also run into issues due to poor weather, leading to outages for hours or days. However, with enough storage in batteries, the solar system can be more reliable.
• Environmental Impact: Some grid power comes from burning fuel, hydro power, and a combination of solar and wind. Although the grid’s carbon footprint is high, regulations that aren’t present in other countries apply, reducing the environmental impact. Solar energy is a cleaner option, but on the downside, you must also consider the carbon footprint solar panels. Panel fabrication is energy-intensive, and the parts can be challenging to recycle.

What Percent of Homes Have Solar Panels?

There was a 0.9% increase in solar energy use by 2016.

According to the EIA, renewable energy accounted for 10% of the country’s total electricity use.

10 states also reported some of the highest rates of solar power usage and more home installations.

 State Solar Capacity (MW) The Approximate Number of Home Installations Arizona 5,247 810,751 California 31,873 8,548,370 Florida 7,074 842,897 Georgia 3,069 359,160 Massachusetts 3,263 545,258 Nevada 3,904 672,707 New Jersey 3,653 586,709 New York 2,840 474,848 North Carolina 7,132 859,707 Texas 9,311 1,082,407

As of 2020, the EIA reported that 3.7% of homes and 1.6% of commercial premises in the US had installed solar panels on rooftops.

This power came from solar arrays or small generators.

Here’s the data for both Residential and Commercial solar power distribution.

 Region Residential Solar Power Distribution Commercial Solar Power Distribution West 8.9% 3.8% Northeast 4.7% 2.5% South 1.7% 0.6% Midwest 1.4% 0.8%

The number of solar panels an individual or household needs usually depends on how much electricity they use.

For instance, you will need more if you have a high utility bill and annual power usage because the panels will provide more power.

(Image: lmtsimon16)

Additionally, you will need more panels if your region receives fewer sunlight hours or the kit or brand is low-quality and inefficient.

How Many Solar Panels To Power the World?

If you are wondering how many solar panels to power the world, the IEA estimated 23,696 TWh of power usage worldwide in 2017, equivalent to 64.92 TWh daily.

If there were 3.5 hours of sunlight daily, the world would need 18.54 TW of solar power.

Assuming the solar panels are rated at 350W, the world would need roughly 51.428 billion solar panels. Additionally, if 4 acres can accommodate a 1MW plant, 74.16 million acres of land would be required to power the planet.

How Much Power Does a Solar Panel Produce?

If you are wondering how much power does a solar panel produce, you need to know the power output of solar panels depends on the brand and quality.

However, most top manufacturers design theirs to emit 250-400 Watts an hour with a 1-4kW capacity.

(Image: E-gabi17)

Therefore, the higher the panel quality, the higher its power output. With the world gradually opting for cleaner and renewable energy, it is no wonder stakeholders are considering what it takes to power an entire country using solar energy.

The fossil fuel reserves will soon deplete, and switching to alternative energy sources is the best solution. Luckily, a country as massive as the US only has to spare less than 1% of its total land space to accommodate solar panels that will generate power for all the states.

This way, the pressure on the national grid system will reduce as more people access more affordable power. The best way to calculate how much the country needs is to consider household power usage.

This way, it will be easier to estimate how many solar panels to power the US according to the current population.

How Many Solar Panels To Power the United States?

Since the US population requires about 4,000 billion kWh annually, it brings the calculation to 2,750 million kW. For the panels to produce at this rate to sustain the entire country, around 7.85 billion solar panels will suffice to power all 50 states provided they emit about 350W an hour, and there are at least four sunlight hours daily.

How Many Acres of Solar Panels To Power the US?

Four petawatt hours yearly are enough to power the country, translating to 13,600,000 acres of solar panels. In perspective, this space measures about 145 miles squared, or half a percentage of the US’s 3,797,000 square miles.

How Many Solar Panels To Power a Building?

If you are wondering how many solar panels to power a building, a household needs about 20-25 solar panels to run, but the number differs based on your total annual power usage, location, quality of the panels, and how much power they transmit. On the other hand, a medium commercial building may need more than 50 panels to operate based on its electricity needs.

How Many Solar Panels To Power a Light Bulb

To know how many solar panels to power a light bulb, you need to know their power consumption. You will need one 100W panel to power 7-10 bulbs in one hour however, you may need more panels to run heavier equipment or household appliances.

References

1U.S. Energy Information Administration. (2022, October 12). How much electricity does an American home use? U.S. Energy Information Administration. Retrieved March 23, 2023, from <https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=97&t=3>

2Perry, C. (2023, January 5). How Many Solar Panels Do I Need? Retrieved March 22, 2023, from Forbes: <https://www.forbes.com/home-improvement/solar/how-many-solar-panels/>

3Oak Ridge National Laboratory. (2018, March). Evaluation of Factors that Influence Residential Solar Panel Installations. Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Retrieved March 23, 2023, from <https://info.ornl.gov/sites/publications/Files/Pub108156.pdf>

4Nussey, B. (2018, July 6). How Much Solar Would It Take To Power The US? Retrieved March 22, 2023, from Freeing energy: <https://www.freeingenergy.com/how-much-solar-would-it-take-to-power-the-u-s/>

5Venditti, B. (2021, August 11). How Much Land is Needed to Power the US with Solar? Retrieved March 22, 2023, from Visual Capitalist: <https://elements.visualcapitalist.com/how-much-land-power-us-solar/>

6Proctor, N., Eggert, R., Lange, I., Madrid, A. A., & Maniloff, P. (2023). 21st Century Trends in Space-Based Solar Power Generation and Storage. NASA. Retrieved March 23, 2023, from <https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/21st_century_trends_in_space-based_solar_power_generation_and_storage.pdf>

7The Solar Nerd. (2021, October 13). How many solar panels would be needed to power the USA? Retrieved March 22, 2023, from The Solar Nerd: <https://www.thesolarnerd.com/blog/how-many-solar-panels-to-power-the-usa/>

8Alt Gov 2. (2023, January 12). How Many Solar Panels Would You Need To Power The United States – Cost-Effective Solutions. Retrieved March 22, 2023, from Alt Gov 2: <https://altgov2.org/solar-panels-need-to-power-the-united-states/>

9Ong, S., Campbell, C., Denholm, P., Margolis, R., & Heath, G. (2013, June). Land-Use Requirements for Solar Power Plants in the United States. NREL. Retrieved March 23, 2023, from <https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy13osti/56290.pdf>

10EPA. (2023, February 5). U.S. Grid Regions. EPA. Retrieved March 23, 2023, from <https://www.epa.gov/green-power-markets/us-grid-regions>