Today I just want to remind readers that there is indeed enough renewable energy out there to power the needs of humanity on the planet. In fact, wind, solar, and other renewable power sources can provide enough energy to power us and have extra juice to spare.
The shift from our current fossil fuel based economies to sustainable renewable energy economies is usually presented as a great challenge. That is also the message coming from the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen. Oil companies tell us that it can be done but that we need decades to get there. The numbers tell a bit of a different story. Total world energy consumption is about 15 terawatts (2005). All that energy can be generated by today’s solar panel technology on a sunny piece of land of about 550 by 550 kilometers (340 square miles). That is for instance about 3% of the surface of the United States and China, 4% of the surface of Australia, 3.5% of Brazil and 9% of India. And we just need to capture about 20% of the solar energy that hits such an area. Of course the beauty of solar energy is that it can be generated locally. So we are not going to see such a centralized production. But the numbers clearly convey that the challenge is not as huge as it is often presented.