07 Aug 2014

About That Intriguing Solar Panel Map Floating Around Social Media…

Economics, Shameless Self-Promotion 14 Comments

Did you catch this neat-o graphic a couple of weeks ago?

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


If you wanna see what’s wrong with this kind of demonstration, see my post.

14 Responses to “About That Intriguing Solar Panel Map Floating Around Social Media…”

  1. Cosmo Kramer says:

    I thought the war mongering idea was to level the middle east and then let the liberals come in and use the decimated land for green energy.


    • Tel says:

      They are testing that theory in Arizona first, on a slightly smaller scale.

  2. GabbyD says:

    but bob, the impracticality of the antimatter elephant, is MAGNITUDES greater than the impracticality of solar power, right?

    i mean, if u wanted to make a firmer argument, you can come up with a more realistic counter example, right?

    • Dan says:

      He could have, but the antimatter elephant provided some comedic effect to help make his point.

    • Jan Masek says:

      Its good to make extreme examples to show just how absurd something is. E.g. taxing is good because it helps poor people. Therefore it is good if a poor person robs a rich guy at gunpoint. In fact, a millionaire can rob a billionaire. If Peter Schiff robs Warren Buffett – thats good

  3. Harold says:

    “Yet this mentality completely ignores the economic realities.” Almost like working out the total rather than economic oil reserves to demonstrate that we have plenty of oil.

    I agree with your point – the graphic does not prove the case for solar. The graphic is useful in comparisons though. For example, if we work out the land area needed to replace USA transport fuel using land grown biofuel, we find it is larger than the agricultural land area of the USA. This tells us that land grown biofuels are never going to be a replacement for oil. The solar graphic shows us that solar could potentially be a replacement. If we can sort out the practicalities (including a high voltage DC continent wide power grid at a cost of many billions), then solar is a viable option. May be better in USA due to political problems. Similarly, if we can sort out the practicalities of antimatter elephants, then they are a viable alternative. We know that we have no way to do the antimatter thing, so we can forget it for now. The practicalities of solar are much closer to realisation.

    • GabbyD says:

      harold, i think its interesting you use the word “practicalities”.

      “The practicalities of solar are much closer to realisation.”

      i agree! (i thought this was obvious, but maybe not)

  4. Josiah says:

    Good post. I would also note that you could not in fact power the world/Europe/etc. with any amount of solar panels, because we use electricity all the time and the panels only work when the sun is out.

    • Jan Masek says:

      Well presumably that can be solved by rechargeable batteries. Or solar panels scattered around Sahara, Australia, Gobi, Nevada.

      • Josiah says:

        Well presumably that can be solved by rechargeable batteries.

        Not really, no.

        • Harold says:

          Molten salt is being tried at the moment. Energy storage is one of the more difficult aspects of renewables. Currently we use pumped hydro to smooth the flow – we pump water up hill at night when electricity is cheap, then generate electricity with it at peak times when electricity is more expensive.

          One of the benefits of a continent wide grid is you do get some smoothing. You can use hydro at night and solar in the day. When the sun is not shining the wind might be blowing and the tides flowing somewhere. But energy storage of some kind will be required.

          We must remember that fossil fuels are simply stored solar energy too.

  5. Yancey Ward says:

    I think this graphic is derived from the claim that the sun delivers more energy to the surface of the earth in 1 hour than is consumed by the entire population in a year. If so, and it calculates out roughly to a square of area 22,500 square miles or roughly 2-3% of the area of Algeria, then the graphic is still wrong since there is no 100% capture and transmission possible with solar irradiation.

  6. Grane Peer says:

    How much land is required for the battery when the sun goes down

    • Harold says:

      If molten salt ends up being the answer, not very much. The salt tanks occupy much less space than the mirrors.

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