Renewable Energy Atlas of the West

Renewable Energy Atlas of the West [Image: Energy Atlas]
Renewable Energy Atlas of the West
[Image: Energy Atlas]

The Renewable Energy Atlas of the West, created by a partnership of organizations interested in renewable energy, highlights the wind, geothermal, solar, and biomass resources across the western United States. The Atlas is available as an online document in which users can view the entire Energy Atlas, or sections of it, in Adobe PDF. The web site also features the Renewable Energy Atlas of the West Interactive Map, provided by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

Renewable Energy by Region

The energy potential of renewable energy sources are not uniformly distributed across the earth.

Areas in the Southwestern and Western United States have high potential for capturing solar energy, as these locations receive more sunlight than other places in the country.

Wind energy farms are best sited in places with ample wind, such as high mountain plateaus in the West.

Geothermal energy development must occur in areas of concentrated geothermal activity within the earth, so that steam or hot water can efficiently be extracted.

Biofuel energy potential is more evenly distributed across the country, but regions with fertile land and ample water resources are necessary for large-scale production.

Hydropower is also more evenly distributed across the country, as it can be produced using the energy of the flow of inland rivers and streams, or through tidal energy.

Renewable Energy Potential Maps

National Renewable Energy Lab MapSearch Interface [Image: NREL]
Image: MapSearch Interface [Image: NREL]

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has many mapping products available for users to discover renewable energy potential across the U.S.:

  • The BioEnergy Atlas contains the BioPower and Biofuels interactive maps
  • The In My Backyard tool allows private homes and businesses to estimate solar photovoltaic or wind turbine energy potentials
  • MapSearch is a user-friendly interface to search for the latest maps created by the NREL GIS team, including renewable energy potential maps, using a variety of filters
  • The Solar Power Prospector is a mapping tool for Concentrating Solar Power technology and development potential

Western Renewable Energy Zones and Transmission

WREZ Phase 1 Map [Image: Western Governors
WREZ Phase 1 Map
[Image: Western Governors' Association and U.S. Department of Energy]

The Renewable Transmission Energy Project is an initiative of the Western Governors' Association (WGA) and the the Western Interstate Energy Board to analyze how best to develop a Western regional market and transmission grid for high quality renewable energy resources in the Western Interconnection. The transmission planning process and analyses will consider impacts to wildlife and water resources to increase the long-term viability of selected transmission plans.

The current plan builds on the Western Renewable Energy Zones (WREZ) Initiative, a joint project of the WGA and the U.S. Department of Energy. The WREZ Phase 1 Report completed in June 2009, brought together diverse interests, information, and analytical tools to identify areas in the Western Interconnection for potential development of renewable energy resources with low environmental impacts. GIS layers used in this Phase 1 Report can be viewed and downloaded by logging on to the NREL WREZ GIS portal (Username: wrez and Password: guest).

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