Our office has recently discovered the brilliance of StumbleUpon. We realized that we can not only use it to discover some great news and information on the very things PNS Energy is interested in, but we can also use it to waste some time when the brain can handle no more.
Among the first things we “stumbled” upon were some very interesting stories about the future of the solar industry. One thing that kept popping up was the idea that solar can (and hopefully will) power the entire earth. In the rest of this post I will lay out some of the more exciting ideas floating around the web.
Click for larger image.
This awesome map shows the surface area required to power the entire Earth (that’s right, the whole world) in 2030. We pulled this map from Treehugger but they ultimately attributed this graphic to the Land Art Generator Initiative. When I first think of the numer of solar panels needed to power the entire Earth I think of an unattainable amount of panels, but when it is displayed visually on a map of the Earth, the actual surface area needed is relatively small.
Ultimately, we would need 496,805 square kilometers covered in solar panels, which is roughly equal to the area of Spain. This is quite large but this puts it into a more manageable perspective; “the Saharan Desert is 9,064,958 square kilometers, or 18 times the total required are to fuel the world.” (Land Art Generator Initiative)
One of the more alarming quotes from the map/article: “According to the United Nations 170,000 square kilometers of forest is destroyed each year. If we constructed solar farms at the same rate, we would be finished in 3 years.”
Going along with installing solar panels in the desert, The Guardian is reporting that an initiative called “Desertec” is breaking ground on a massive plan to install a network of solar farms, wind farms, and concentrated solar plants that will produce 15% of Europe’s electricity by 2050. Concentrated solar plants are different from solar farms in that they use large mirrors to reflect the heat from the sun to heat up large greenhouse that pushes hot air through turbines that produce electricity, here is an example of one being built in Arizona. This initiative is the result of a German physicist that wanted to estimate how much electricity was needed to meet the Earth’s demands. He quickly found out that “in just six hours, the world’s deserts receive more energy from the sun than humans consume in a year. If even a tiny fraction of this energy could be harnessed – an area of Saharan desert the size of Wales could, in theory, power the whole of Europe (The Guardian).”
- Map showing how the Desertec plan would work.
The last ‘out of this world’ example of solar energy production is just that. One day, scientists hope that solar arrays will be deployed into space. They will then collect unfiltered sunlight and beam the energy produced down to Earth. A solar satellite in space can be exposed to the sunlight 24 hours a day and can also transmit that energy to whichever area on Earth that has the highest demand at that time. This would ensure that whoever and whatever needed energy would have access to it immediately. Think of the impact this would have on groups like our military. Instant energy could be beamed to remote locations all over the world, allowing troops to set up small, mobile forward operating bases and still have access to all the energy they need. This idea appears to be in the very early stage of development but down the line, anything is possible.
All in all I hope to someday reap the benefits of these solar dreams and if scientific news is any predictor of the future, there is a good chance that I will see some sort of these plans put into actual use.