The nuclear crisis in Japan has many of us feeling sad and worried, and the world is standing by with hopes and prayers for the workers and residents on the front lines of the disaster. At the same time, the crisis is a global wake-up call: It’s 2011, people-powered revolutions are sweeping the world and, as we blogged last week, we have the technology to relegate dangerous 20th-century fossil fuels to the history books.
If we cover 192,00 square miles of the earth’s surface with solar panels, we can power the entire world with solar alone (as shown in the graphic above). That’s an area a little bit larger than California but, remember, the PV panels will be distributed across hundreds of millions of rooftops. For the U.S. to meet its domestic electricity needs, we’d only need to panel over a state the size of Kentucky.
If all 50 states were as energy efficient as California, electricity consumption in the U.S. would be cut by a third. (Then, we’d only need to solarize an area the size of Maryland). Industry geeks refer to this as “negawatts” — you can just call it smart.
With one ton of sand, we can make solar panels that will produce as much electricity as 500,000 tons of coal (according to CleanTick.com). No mountaintop removals required.
By 2030, global demand for electricity will require either 13,000 new coal-fired power plants, 500 new nuclear reactors or the following mix (from Scientific American, November 2009):
The choice is in our hands. With solar stocks soaring and uranium prices tumbling, it’s pretty clear that the forecast is sunny.