How much solar to run the whole U.S.?

How much solar to run the whole U.S.?

Summary: Courtesy: NASA.One blogger says he's calculated the answer.

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TOPICS: Browser, Telcos
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nasamap.jpg Courtesy: NASA.

One blogger says he's calculated the answer. It's close to 600 square miles. To provide all the electricity now used in the U.S. How does that compare to all the mall parking lots in the land? Cover them over with solar panels and...

And, of course, it depends on where you put those solar collectors. The NASA map above shows the hottest solar parts of the globe in the brightest of reddish-orange. Panels in Alaska aren't worth as much as those is a sunny part of Arizona, obviously.

Clearly solar power could have a much more productive future in the U.S. than Europe which is further north and gets shorter days in the winter. Right now Europe simply has more investment going into utility-scale solar installations.

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8 comments
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  • ....

    Hmmm, not bad, only 600 square miles. Now halve that and put the collectors in orbit and you have a real solution. Either way though, we need to stop screwing around as a nation and get it going! We are falling behind and it's going to bite us in the butt soon. ]:)
    Linux User 147560
  • 600 sq mi seems very low

    Hope i'm wrong
    marks055
  • RE: How much solar to run the whole U.S.?

    usion 'solar' fusion instead
    amj2010
  • 1st grade math

    I hate to break it to you...but the solar power plant in spain (worlds larges solar farm) covers 247 acres and only provides power for 20,000 homes. 247 acres is about a half of a square mile meaning we would need 383,999.999 acres. There are about 160 million households in US. Considering these numbers the total number of acres needed is 1,976,000 acres (or approx. 3,087.5 square miles). So unless there is some crazy technology none of us know about that is a closer estimate.
    skidud
    • more 1st grade math

      This is very interesting because various estimates are converging. And 600 sq.mi. isn't that less extensive than 3000 sq. mi.: 24 mile square vs. 55 mile square.

      The other day a source that I trust said 91 mile square.

      My own estimate (I dredged up out of the depths of memory) that the USA consumes about 1.4 terrawatts of power and that a rule of thumb for a solar power plant is about 5 acres required per megawatt, therefore 1.4 *10**6 Mw * 5a/Mw = 7 * 10**6 acres. And at 640 acres/sq.mi. we get about 10,000 sq.mi. or a square about 100mi. on a side.

      So results are converging.

      I'm interested in power yield per acre for solar, does anyone have a good citable resource?

      I've spot checked some websites and typical modern yield seems to be about like the Carissa Plains plant which will yield 177Mw from 640 acres.
      bliffle
  • Mising something

    C'mon the whole dang planet is solar (Fusion) powered. I often see puzzling signs erected by well meaning but uneducated folk "Nuclear Free Zone"
    Endless growth - Never ending pollution - spiraling debt. Our planet is dying! i saw a doc. the last week - Planet it made the claim that to bring China and India up to our standard of "living" (read consumption and waste) will require another four planet earths within the next20 years or so. Wake up humans, we have the technology to go sustainable but are driven irrevokably by the growth myth. Pity is the " Myth Busters" do not latch on to reality, instead of the crappy non issues like most of us argue about. My guess is we will maintain our frog in heating water syndrome till the last fish is eaten the last tree felled and the last river is poisoned. Ooooops forgot:- solar energy, science and technology will save us? In your dreams.
    On Site PC
    • I agree

      your views are essential mine but what do I do............. try to save a "lost cause" ?............ consume as much of it as I can in an attempt to get as much as I can before it's gone? .......... it really is a depresing thing to consider plus I have to be generally annoyed by the polyannas who expect technology will "save us"..........DEPRESSING

      ANGELO p.
      a_pontillo
  • Omitted information ...

    This calculation only includes electrical power. It omits the tremendous amount of carbonaceous energy sources used directly in running everything from gas stoves, lawn mowers, cars, trucks, trains, planes, and ships, to the factories of major industries.

    It also omits the inefficiency factors involved in the transmission and storage of electrical energy.

    At present, our cleanest, safest, and cheapest form of energy production is nuclear energy. Fusion is still a distant dream.
    ichetuknee