The United States’ capacity for the expansion of nuclear power is almost nine times greater than for that of solar thermal power, according to research funded by nonprofit utility consortium the Electric Power Research Institute and carried out by Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
After taking into account physical and geographic capacities of potential sites for power plants, there is the potential for 515 GW worth of large nuclear reactors in the country, compared to only 60 GW of dry-cooled solar thermal energy production, according to Application of Spatial Data Modeling and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) for Identification of Potential Siting Options for Various Electrical Generation Sources.
The solar figure falls to just 18 GW when restricted to potential water-cooled plants, which are more efficient than air-cooled facilities. There is the potential for 158 GW worth of new advanced coal plants to be constructed, the report says.
Researchers divided the lower 48 states into almost 700 million cells of one hectare apiece, and judged each cell on its potential power generation, regulatory burdens specific to the site – for example being sited in an ecologically sensitive area – and natural resources, such as water for cooling.
In August 2011, the U.S Department of Agriculture awarded the Electric Power Research Institute $1 million to fund an industry-led cap and trade system for water quality. EPRI will use the Conservation Innovation Grant to initiate water quality pilot trades in the Ohio River Basin, which covers parts of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and West Virginia.