How many square kilometers do you think is the surface area required to power the whole world with zero carbon emissions using solar solutions alone? Hint – it’s tiny!

Land Art Generator creates infographics to explain energy production and consumption, used by the International Energy Agency and other institutions.

Their research shows that if you placed all the solar panels in different regions side by side the amount of surface area needed for enough solar panels to power the whole world is a lot less than one might think.

Based on actual consumption going back as far as 1980 the projected number of square kilometers needed for enough solar panels to power the whole world is, based on worst case scenarios…

496,805 square kilometers!

That’s not that much considering the whole landmass. By comparison…

  • There are 1.2 million square kilometers of farmland in China alone.
  • The Sahara Desert is 9,064,958 square kilometers, or 18 times the total required area to fuel the world.
  • A typical golf course is around one square kilometer and there are over 40,000 of those all over the world. 

Their infographic illustrates this to scale. Click on the image below to open the infographic in full size. 

Land Art Generator’s accompanying notes.

“Areas are calculated based on an assumption of 20% operating efficiency of collection devices and a 2000 hour per year natural solar input of 1000 watts per square meter striking the surface. Nineteen areas are distributed on the map approximating proportional areas based on 2009 usage. In practice these would be distributed across many installations from rooftops to megawatt arrays, localizing production as much as possible. The large square in the Saharan Desert (1/4 of the overall 2030 required area) is sufficient to power all of Europe and North Africa. The definition of “power” covers the fuel required to run all electrical consumption, all machinery, and all forms of transportation. It is based on the US Department of Energy statistics of worldwide Btu consumption and estimates the 2030 usage (678 quadrillion Btu) to be 44% greater than that of 2008”


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Further reading

The original article pulled from their archives explains the rationale and the above comparisons. Link

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