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article imageA world powered by solar energy is within our reach

By Karen Graham     Apr 24, 2018 in Technology
Imagine for a minute, a world where all our electricity comes from solar power. Many people might think this is a pipe dream, but believe it or not, it is a reasonable pursuit — and it could be done using only a tiny bit of land.
At the National Governors Association meeting in July 2017, Elon Musk told the gathering of over 30 state governors exactly how much land would be needed in the United States to power the entire country on solar energy.
“If you wanted to power the entire United States with solar panels, it would take a fairly small corner of Nevada or Texas or Utah; you only need about 100 miles by 100 miles of solar panels to power the entire United States,” Musk said at the event in Rhode Island. “The batteries you need to store the energy, so you have 24/7 power, is 1 mile by 1 mile. One square-mile.”
Currently, the growth in electricity from sunlight means solar power represented just over 1.9 percent of all electricity generated in the United States in 2017, according to PV Magazine, nearly doubling from about 1.0 percent in 2015.
Can we power the entire world with just solar energy?
Price comparison website has produced an interactive map and accompanying report that not only explains how the world could move to solar power but shows the percentage of land that would be needed in each country to make it happen.
With 2.3 million solar panels  the Villanueva power plant is part of Mexico's push to generate ...
With 2.3 million solar panels, the Villanueva power plant is part of Mexico's push to generate 43 percent of its electricity from clean sources by 2024
The methodology includes two factors that have to be considered - The amount of sunlight a country gets and its energy usage. The team found that most countries, actually, 87 percent of them could power themselves using less than 5.0 percent of their total land mass.
The U.K., being a smaller country than, say, Canada or China, would require 12.3 percent of its land, or 29,690 square kilometers, to be covered in solar panels. This may seem like a lot of solar panels, but when you take into account that only 6.0 percent of the U.K. is built on, then it is possible.
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As a comparison, in the United States, 129,390 square kilometers would need to be covered in solar panels, an area that is only 1.4 percent of the entire country. Canada would not need much in the way of solar panels to provide power to its 37 million citizens, either. The panels would take up an area about 24,010 square kilometers in size, or about 0.3 percent of its land.
Actually, there are only three places where the analysis shows that more solar panels would be needed than there is space for them. They include Singapore (830 percent), Hong Kong (213 percent) and Bahrain (156 percent). This is understandable because of the population density in these areas.
Bottom line? According to the analysis, we would need around 1.1 million square kilometers of solar panels to power the whole Earth, or an area the size of South Africa. And as the report points out, if this amount of solar panels were to be spread around the Earth, it makes perfect sense and it is logical to assume it is a doable course of action.
Bird on the bow of a sailboat during sunset in Belmar  NJ
Bird on the bow of a sailboat during sunset in Belmar, NJ
The sense of it all
As Elon Musk has pointed out - Humans have relied on the sun for as long as humans have been on this planet. It provides energy and life and "is the only thing that keeps us from being at the temperature of cosmic background radiation, which is 3 degrees above absolute-zero."
“If it wasn’t for the sun, we’d be a frozen, dark ice ball. The amount of energy that reaches us from the sun is tremendous. It’s the 99 percent-plus of all energy that Earth has.”
The methodology used to calculate the area of solar panels needed per country came from The total area needed to power the world was estimated by finding the average area needed for a country and multiplying it by the total number of countries (195).
More about Solar energy, Global coverage, China, elon musk
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