The potential of solar energy to meet renewable energy needs in Idaho, USA

The potential of solar energy to meet renewable energy needs in Idaho, USA

Robert L. Mahler

Department of Soil and Water Systems, University of Idaho, USA

| |
| | Citation



The purpose of this paper is to evaluate public attitudes about the potential of solar energy generation in Idaho. Currently, hydropower is the largest source of electricity in Idaho. However, this resource is already being used at close to 100% capacity. Idaho is one of the three fastest growing states in the United States – a situation that will require additional energy resources to meet growing electricity needs. The three renewable energy resources that have the potential to meet this additional electricity demand are solar, wind, and geothermal energy. On an annual basis, the Boise area, the fastest growing area of the state, with its desert climate, averages 2,993 total hours of sunshine, making it the 47th sunniest city in the United States. There are 120 completely sunny days and more than 210 days with some sun. This fastest growing area of the state has plenty of sunshine. Consequently, individual homeowners have the incentive to install efficient solar systems thanks to both abundant sunshine and government incentives. The potential and future of solar energy are evaluated in this paper by (1) public surveys about the acceptance of solar energy in urban cities in southwestern Idaho, (2) the trends in individual solar installations by homeowners, and (3) the costs of individual solar installations compared to the cost of purchasing electricity from the local power grid. Solar energy has become cost-effective com- pared to the cost of other renewable energy resources in the region thanks to improvements in solar cell technology in the last 10 years. It is estimated that home rooftops in Idaho have the potential to be covered with 4,800 MW of solar panels. This could generate 28% of all the electricity demand in Idaho. As of 2021, 573 MW worth of panels had been installed. More than 81% of homeowners in the Boise area have been approached by companies selling solar systems in the last 4 years. Approximately 35% of the homeowners who have received solar information view this renewable energy resource as viable, while more than 30% of the homeowners have either seriously considered solar energy systems or installed these systems since 2016. Solar systems are now found on the rooftops of approximately 4,000 homes in Ada and Canyon counties in southwestern Idaho. As long as federal tax incentives are offered for the installation of individual solar systems, this renewable energy source will expand at a fast pace in southwestern Idaho in the foreseeable future.


public opinion, renewable energy, solar energy, sustainable energy


[1] Current world population, 2021. https//

[2] Kimmell, T., Kimmell, P., Sorensen, M., Ruggiero, C. & Colt, B., Investing in a green future: universities and renewable energy. Bryant University Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies, 1(1), Article 5, 2020.

[3] Maja, M.M. & Ayano, S.F., The impact of population growth on natural resources and farmers’ capacity to adapt to climate change in low-income countries. Earth Systems and Environment, 5, pp. 271–283, 2021.

[4] Kannan, N. & Vakeesan, D., Solar energy for future world: a review. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 62, pp. 1092–1105, 2016.

[5] Dominguez, R., Carrion, M. & Oggioni, G., Planning and operating a renewable European power system under uncertainty. Applied Energy, 258, p. 113989, 2020.

[6] Rabaia, M.K.H., Abdelkareem, M.A., Sayed, E.T., Elsaid, K., Chae, K.-J., Wilberforce, T. & Olabi, A.G., Environmental impacts of solar energy systems: a review. Science of the Total Environment, 754, Article 141989, 2021.

[7] Humes, K., Walters, R., Ryu, J., Mahler, R. & Woodruff, C., Water Report, Idaho Climate-Economy Impacts Assessment, James A. & Louise McClure Center for Public Policy Research, University of Idaho, Boise, ID, 2021.

[8] Salent, P. & Dillman, D., How to Conduct Your own Survey, John Wiley and Sons, Inc.: New York, New York, 1994.

[9] Dillman, D., Mail and Internet Surveys: The Tailored Design Method, John Wiley and Sons, Inc.: New York, New York, 2000.

[10] SAS Online Document 9.1.3. Cary, North Carolina: SAS Institute Inc., 2004.

[11] Mahler, R.L., Simmons, R., Sorensen, F. & Miner, J.R., Priority water issues in the Pacific Northwest. Journal of Extension, 42(5), Article 5RIB3, 2004.

[12] Mahler, R.L., Simmons, R. & Sorensen, F., Drinking water issues in the Pacific Northwest. Journal of Extension, 43(6), 6RIB6, 2005.

[13] Mahler, R.L., Barber, M.E. & Shafii, B., Urban public satisfaction with drinking water since 2002 in the Pacific Northwest, USA. International Journal of Sustainable Development and Planning, 10(5), pp. 620–634, 2015.

[14] Mahler, R.L., Barber M.E. & Simmons, R., Public concerns about water pollution between 2002 and 2017 in the Pacific Northwest, USA. International Journal of Environmental Impacts, 2(1), pp. 17–26, 2019.

[15] Wikipedia, List of states of the United States by population, 2021. Accessed January 2021.

[16] United States Bureau of the Census. Current population reports, Series P-25, No. 1017. Projection of the population of states by age, sex and race 1988 to 2040. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington DC, 2018.