Solar power is not as popular as one would want it to be primarily because many think it’s not that effective. Well, they could not be more wrong, and Elon Musk agrees with that. Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, in an interview at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting on December 15 mentioned that by covering just a corner of Nevada or Utah with solar panels, the entire United States could be powered, as reported below.
Musk: "You could take a corner of Utah and Nevada and power the entire United States with solar power." #AGU15
— Lauren Morello (@lmorello_dc) December 15, 2015
The very same fact was discussed during Elon Musk’s talk at the Universite de Paris Pantheon Sorbonne on the 2nd December. Musk said,
The important thing to appreciate is if let’s say the only thing we had was solar energy, that that was the only source, if you just took a small section of Spain, you could power all of Europe.. It’s a very small amount of area that’s actually needed to generate the electricity we need to power civilization or in the case of the U.S., a little corner of Nevada or Utah, power the entire United States.
Musk seems to think that solar power will gradually become the largest source of energy by 2031. To put things in perspective, consider that fact that more power from the sun hits the Earth in just an hour than all of humanity uses in an entire year. So how does the energy from the solar panels translate? Solar cells have a 20% efficiency when it comes to converting solar energy into power. So theoretically, the entire land area of Spain covered with solar panels should be enough to generate power for the entire world, which is realistically possible by 2030, just like Musk said. Take a look at the following map by Land Art Generator Initiative which shows how little a space Elon Musk was talking about:
So how much area on land should actually be covered by solar panels to produce enough solar energy that could power the entire world by, let’s say, 2030. The folks at Land Art Generator did some math. As estimated by US Energy Information Administration, by 2030 the entire world would be using 678 quadrillion BTU, which equals 198,721,800,000,000 kilowatt-hours. In order to produce that much solar energy, an area of roughly 496,805 square kilometers will need a blanket of solar panels. The area of Spain is 504,646.2 square kilometers. It’s safe to say here that the entirety of Spain will need to be covered, but given the perspective, it doesn’t seem that big especially considering that that’s all we need to power the entire world, and that too without any harmful emissions.