The Sun powers our solar system, so could it power all our earthly needs too? If it someday could, where would all those solar panels go?
According to a graduate thesis by Technical University of Braunschweig student Nadine May, the number of solar panels needed to supply the entire world’s energy needs would fill just 25,000 square miles — or an area only slightly larger than the state of West Virginia.
That doesn’t seem like very much unless you live in West Virginia. If the amount of solar panels needed were divided evenly in every country, they would take up just 127.5 square miles in each. (Granted, that would be asking a lot of smaller countries like Bahrain, which has a total land measurement of only 295 square miles.)
So larger countries would have to host more panels — maybe even on a per-capita basis. This graphic is a good projection of a possible disbursement of panels worldwide for energy demands in the year 2030. The graphic places about a quarter of all panels in the baking hot Saharan Desert.
Why not just put all of the panels in the sunny Sahara or someplace similar? A few reasons. The more evenly distributed the panels are, the better; localization would help diversify infrastructure, reduce the inevitable power losses that occur over long transmission distances, and allow more countries to share the burdens of installation and maintenance.
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