Economics, Politics, Technology

Solar is actually viable

One of my favorite websites these days is

http://mapsontheweb.zoom-maps.com.

It’s not an artfully crafted news aggregator, and it doesn’t feature new thought or commentary either. Rather, it features a collection of maps, charts, infographics, and other data representations that the site’s admins painstakingly add each day from all corners of the web.

The most moving addition so far, at least in my eyes, doesn’t even fit the criteria of what they usually post. It’s just a picture from Wikipedia that estimates the area of solar panels needed to power the entire world as per current energy consumption levels, and you’d be surprised just how little land is necessary. Fullneed(On a side note, I recently took ExxonMobil’s Energy Quiz and was surprised to learn that US power consumption is actually expected to fall over the next 30 years or so. During that period, global demand for wind, solar, and biofuels is expected to rise fivefold.)

Anyway, back to the image. It’s quite a telling sight because it illustrates how viable it is for solar to accomplish what many claim solar can never. It’s a moving sight that certainly gives me hope for alternative energy’s place in the future of production and consumption. But it’s also quite frustrating to see when considering the political gridlock that has plagued our renewable energy policies.

It doesn’t take long after a look at that picture to start extrapolating in your head a rectangle of similar size over the US. There are dozens of options here that could work, and many of those incidentally get almost as much sunlight as the Sahara Desert does (and also are completely uninhabited).

I realize the cost of setting up such a system is quite enormous, but I also believe that anyone who ventures into such a colossal project is bound to be rewarded. And by rewarded I mean paid, big time. India and China, for all the growth that they’ve seen over the past decade or so, have each faced several energy crises in recent years. Think of all the energy we could export eastward, and at rates that they’d have no choice but to accept. Additionally, it’s well documented that solar hardware prices have been falling in recent years due to technological innovation and the Chinese getting involved in production. So who knows how expensive inexpensive such a project will be in a few years.

Solar certainly has a future, and this image is a good means of proving that.

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