How Many Solar Panels Would It Take to Power The Entire World?

Illustration for article titled How Many Solar Panels Would It Take to Power The Entire World?

After seeing how many nukes would it take to obliterate humanity instantly, I wanted some good news. Like, how many solar panels would it take to power the entire world? The entire surface of Africa, maybe? Actually, it's surprisingly less.

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Just 496,905 square kilometers. That's really nothing compared to the total world area: Less than the surface of Spain (504,030 square kilometers) covered with solar panels, distributed across deserts and areas with almost 24/7 sun, all year around.

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It's easy to forget that the sun doesn't shine 24/7. Wind power shows the same inherent unreliability. While it certainly is feasible in terms of land area to meet all of our needs with solar power, in order to rely completely on it, we would need large stations of batteries to store the electricity. With the battery technology we have today, this is not feasible.

Moving to a carbon neutral future won't be accomplished with one magic energy source. It's going to take a mixture of solar, wind, hydro-electric, nuclear, and bio fuels to do it.