The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has released an analysis of how much renewable energy we could produce in each state if we really tried. According to the data, the U.S. could generate over 450,000 terawatt-hours of renewable electricity. Compare that to the 3,800 terawatt-hours of retail electricity we used in 2010. If we hooked up enough wind turbines, solar panels, and biomass systems to take advantage of just 1% of our renewable energy potential, we'd have enough green electricity to shut down every coal-fired power plant and still switch on a lot more iPads.

Here are the terawatt-hours South Dakota could get from various renewable sources, in descending order of potential:

  • rural photvoltaic: 10,009
  • wind: 2,902
  • concentrated photovoltaic: 1,630
  • enhanced geothermal: 922.0
  • biopower: 8.615
  • urban photovoltaic: 4.574
  • rooftop photovoltaic: 2.083
  • hydropower: 1.047

South Dakota's total retail electric consumption in 2010 was 11.4 terawatt-hours. In other words, if we went whole hog on the four renewable energy resources that have the least potential in South Dakota, we'd have more electricity than we could use. Alternatively (hee hee!), if we tapped just a little more than one one-thousandth of South Dakota's rural photovoltaic potential—forget wind turbines, just solar panels—we could meet all of our electricity needs.

This interactive map of renewable energy potential shows how much kind of green power is available in your county. Click and learn!