How Much Surface Area Would It Take to Power the World Completely With Solar or Wind?

Ever wonder how much space we would need to use to power the entire world with solar energy or offshore wind power? So did the good people at the Land Art Generator, who created two infographics that show the amount of surface area required to power our planet with renewable resources.

Area Required for Solar Power

According to Land Art Generator, 496,905 square kilometers are needed to power the world with solar energy. That's less than the surface area of Spain. And just a piece of the Sahara Desert could power all of Europe and North Africa.

Area Required for Wind Only

Wind power is a bit more complicated. 5.85 million square kilometers have to be dedicated to offshore wind to power the world. But while solar might be the wisest choice in terms of area required, wind could act as a strategic back-up for places with minimal sunshine.

Even though solar has the potential to power the world, the cost of pipelines to transfer it from place to place are prohibitory. For example, the planned Desertec solar pipeline from North Africa and the Middle East to Europe will cost at least $555 billion. And that's just to power 15% of Europe. But it's still comforting to know that we do have the capacity to completely wean ourselves off coal and other non-renewable resources completely.

[Land Art Generator via Gizmodo]

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5 Comments

  • THIRUMALAI BHUVARAGHAVAN

    Have anybody done a study of solar energy extraction's impact on the Ecological balance. I think excessive extraction of Solar Energy will cause serious quakes.

  • Marc Soer

    For a stable source of energy the highest allowable World power generation provided at one moment is 20 181000000000kWh power (2008), including all forms of energy 
     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W... 

    Earth land size 148,940,000 km2 land
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E...

    Industrial Solar panels can provide 
    10 000 000 kWh from 126,000 solar panels using a land space of 364km2 (90 acres)
    http://news.ontario.ca/mei/en/...

    put it all together 

    World power generation provided / Solar farm of (10 million kWh farms @ 364km2) = 
    20 181000000000kWh / 10 000 000 kWh =
    2018100 ( 10 000 000 kWh farms @ 364km2) are needed to supply 20 181000000000kWh 

    How much land would 2018100 Solar Farm @ 364km2 use =  
     2018100 x  364km2 = 
    734,870,934km2 (land needed for solar panels) 

    What percentage of Earth's land space 148,940,000km2 would be taken up ? 
    [ 734,870,934km2 (land needed for solar panels) * (100) ]/ 148,940,000km2 (Earth's land space) =  493%
    Over 4 Earths completely covered with solar panels are required to support World power generation to 1 Earth The key difference between my source of data (World power generation) , which is the same as landartgenerator, (opposed to World energy consumed in a year) is that I'm not taking the entire energy consumed in a year and dividing it up, I'm taking the maximum allowable power that can be supplied at once to earth. This is important, as you know the total amount of energy consumed is not the key aspect to a better service but the amount of energy that we can use at once when needed. As this is hypothetical I understand that this is not possible in a practical manner, as to allow 100% use of the maximum allowable power to be used all the hydro plant generators etc. would have to be running all at once on Earth which will never happen.  

  • Michael Powers

    There is a new world wide web emerging right before our eyes. It is a global energy network and, like the internet, it will change our culture, society and how we do business. More importantly, it will alter how we use, transform and exchange energy.

    Enough solar energy falls on the surface of the earth every 40 minutes to meet 100 percent of the entire world's energy needs for a full year.

    There is no energy supply problem, there is an energy distribution problem -- and the emerging solution is a new world wide web of electricity.

    For more information, see www.terrawatts.com

  • Mouli Cohen

    Fascinating graphic. Thank you for putting this up, looking forward to see what happens. Solar power is something that I am fascinated by, and see vast growth for in the future.