The total area of solar panels it would take to power the world, Europe, and Germany



Enlightening graphic and good information for sure, but when we build them, can we please put them anywhere other than Libya and Algeria, or anywhere else in the middle east and northern Africa for that matter?


Terrible piece of reportage, and bad headlining. What little there is at the end of the line fails to define at what solar efficiency they’re talking about: current practical or theoretical 100%. Addtionally the graphic is not actually “to power the world” but to supply worldwide electricity. A large amount of power yes, but not the same thing. According to wiki it’s about 1/7 total power used.


Why? Because a few of the people who live there are “bad”? Given that vast panel farms would improve the local climate and create huge numbers of jobs on land that is currently unused and hostile to all life, I can’t think of anywhere better.


“All the world’s power could be provided by a square 100 km by 100 km in the Sahara.” Is this true? Concentrating solar power in deserts delivers an average power per unit land area of roughly 15 W/m2. So, allowing no space for anything else in such a square, the power delivered would be 150 GW. This is not the same as current world power consumption. It’s not even near current world electricity consumption, which is 2000 GW.World power consumption today is 15 000 GW. So the correct statement about power from the Sahara is that today’s consumption could be provided by a 1000 km by 1000 km square in the desert, completely filled with concentrating solar power. That’s four times the area of the UK. And if we are interested in living in an equitable world, we should presumably aim to supply more than today’s consumption. To supply every person in the world with an average European’s power consumption (125 kWh/d), the area required would be two 1000 km by 1000 km squares in the desert.


To be fair, it does represent the largest single share of GHGs and other pollutant reductions.

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A better reason not to build them all in Libya might be that transmission from Libya to say, anywhere else, would be a massive hassle easily mitigated by having them spread out, but yeah, my snarky knee-jerk reaction to their map choice is “Sure, let’s put them in the middle east so the oil-rich dictators can now be solar-rich-dictators and continue to oppress their own citizens and use slave labor from farther east to build their cities, but we’ll let it slide, because we need that sweet, sweet sun power”. Something to that effect. I wouldn’t shed a tear if Dubai shrank back into the desert or if Riyadh became just another stop on a global trading route with no real power over anything.

I wasn’t thinking of Islamic terrorists when I was thinking of “bad” people, but yeah, I guess we can use your thing too.


How 'bout because they’ll be blown up?

If I were going to embark on a multi-trillion* dollar project, I would want to minimize the risk that some ethnic/religious/political faction wouldn’t destroy it because it represents Western imperialism or hold it hostage on an occasional basis.

*disclaimer: I have no idea how much something like this would cost


Given that it would take tens of thousands of workers living in the area for decades on end to build the things, given that the panel/mirror farms would be pretty resistant to being entirely destroyed by sabotage (compared to petroleum infrastructure), I’m pretty sure the jihaditards would quickly find themselves on the losing end of a gigantic task and a well-armed and motivated opposition.

I suppose I could just leave it at that.

Bah. Everyone knows that in theory, there’s no difference between them.

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As I recall, supplying all the energy needs (transportation, residential & commercial) of the United States would take panels the area of South Carolina (83,000 square km). I believe that assumed current panel efficiency and typical hours of sunlight in the south west desert region. Didn’t include distribution, which of course would increase the required area, either due to power line loss or less sunlight elsewhere.

How much area would be required for the storage “batteries”?

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[quote=“daneel, post:5, topic:34331”]
Is this true? Concentrating solar power in deserts delivers an average power per unit land area of roughly 15 W/m2. [/quote]

15 watts per square meter? Thermal must really suck - even cheap-ass photovoltaic panels generate ten times that much in less than half that area.


Yeah I don’t get that.

Even the wiki article on sunshine,

shows that in a perfect orientation and maximum intensity you’d have about 1100 W/m2. Even with only a conversion rate of 10% that’s still 100W/m2 of electricity. A more realistic rate would be 15%, but due to location, tracking, orientation you’d probably still end up around 100W/m2 of usable electricity. That’s way better than 15W/m2…


The hating on solar is getting ridiculous and fake-factoidy. Is this 1994 and are we all getting lollipops from the Heritage Foundation?

From a power-generation standpoint, if it makes a profit, it makes sense to do it. The price of generation for panels and thermal is already well past the breakeven point. Transmission is an issue only in the sense that none of the easily workable ideas for long-distance transmission with minimal loss have been tried yet only because no one has absolutely needed to actually do it. It would be handy to have that capability in current grids and we should try out the technology, but the reasons we haven’t done it yet are political, not rational.

From a geopolitical standpoint, decentralized harvesting of solar (and wind and other renewables) is almost the exact reverse of petrodollar fuckery. Construction and maintenance alone spreads population out and reduces the choke points for economic man-in-the-middle attacks. The local population needed to run the arrays would rely on the power generated and the local security needed to live, so simple democracy by the people that live in the shade of the arrays should suffice. The dumbness of saying that this is exactly like oil infrastructure shouldn’t need to be pointed out, but here ya go.

From a climate perspective, shading the blasted wastelands and dry bush of the American Southwest, Sahara, Arabia/Mesopotamia, Australia, and southern Africa, is nothing but a win when we’re looking at thermal manipulation of climate against the trend.

Generally, I don’t see anything about this idea that is impossible or actually makes the world worse. Since this idea was first put forward a few years ago, the bullshit attacks on it have relied on childish derision. The worst thing you can say is that it probably won’t be the only way we will generate energy. Gasp. Better stahp dis naow.


Is a PV array 1000km x 1000km feasible?

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Fifty years after the lightbulb was invented, were the night-side networks of glowing cities across every continent feasible?

Edit: okay, this came of as a bit too snarky. Apologies.


India is one country that has made a solid push toward solar conversion. (In part to battle rural coal use.) They tried (successfully) a pilot program using arrays over canals. That had the combined effect of preserving land space and reducing water evaporation. After the trial, that program was expanded.

I’m posting that info just to show that arrays needn’t cover land space, and may provide secondary benefits.

Just days ago, it was announced that India nationally now seeks to install 20GW by 2022. They currently run 2.5GW. The biggest slowdown on construction comes from recent anti-dumping laws directly tied to waste from the solar industry. Those laws are expected to push the market back by about two years.

This news is recent enough that the new formal National Energy Policy has not yet been released, only goals have been outlined. So, it will be interesting to see how they intend to achieve their goals.


The PV panels can only use a subset of the spectrum…
Don’t Be a PV Efficiency Snob | Do the Math
This reduces the available power to 35% of the 1100 W/m2 – so there is only 350 W/m2 max available for use if you are using Silicon panels. Using basic polycrystalline PV panels one should get 15% eff, which would be ~150 W/m2. However, that max 1100 W/m2 value is for the 5 hrs a day that the sun is directly overhead, so I assume that there is some finagle factor for that, but even if you just take a simple 1/5 availability, that is still 30 W/m2… Perhaps desert dust, maintenance, etc reduces the effective power by another factor of two???

Edit: perhaps they included transmission losses for transporting the power all over the world.