The world uses 410 Quintillion joules of energy per year. One quintillion equals 1,000,000,000,000,000,000, that’s a one with eighteen zeros! 410 Quintillion joules is a lot of energy. So how much energy does the earth get from the sun? 430 quintillion joules per day! Thus the answer to the question, “can solar power the entire world?”, is theoretically “yes”, because the earth receives enough energy from the sun each day to provide for all of our energy needs.
A solar farm large enough to power the planet
One of the sunniest places in the world is the Sahara desert in northern Africa. If it were possible to transmit energy from there to the entire world, a hypothetical Saharan solar super-farm powerful enough to supply energy to the entire world need to cover 191,817 square miles, a surface area roughly the size of Spain. While this sounds like a lot of space (and it is), keep in mind that the Sahara desert is roughly 5,632,703 square miles in size. That’s 18 times larger than the land area needed for this hypothetical solar super-farm.
Microgrids: Power close to home
Obviously, it’s not practical to try and power the world using one gigantic solar farm. A better way to power the world using solar energy is to tap into the full potential of residential solar using microgrids. A microgrid is a community-sized electrical power grid. The power generated from community solar systems is stored at a battery farm during the day. At night, homes in the community draw power from that battery farm.
Borrego Springs, California: A community microgrid
Borrego Springs is a beautiful desert community that lies about 90 miles east of San Diego. Because of its location, Borrego Springs is at the far end of the San Diego Gas and Electric grid causing the community to suffer frequent power outages. Those power outages can be a real problem for a community that often sees 100+ degree days during the summer. Borrego Spring’s answer to that challenge was to build a microgrid capable of providing critical power to the community during an extended blackout. It powers a gas station so people can buy gas, a library that can also act as a cool zone for people suffering from heat stress, and the elderly community.
Grid parity isn’t very far away
Grid parity refers to the cost of providing for all of your home’s power needs compared to drawing power from the grid. It is achieved when the cost of powering your own home is equal to that of powering it from the grid. In some places, such as Hawaii and remote parts of Alaska, grid parity is already a reality. Communities in those places are already generating and consuming power on site. In states like California, where electric rates are high, grid parity may be only 10 – 20 years away. Ultimately a combination of self-powered homes backed up by a community microgrid might feasibly enable energy independence from the grid.
Solar can power your world, right now
While grid parity is a few years away for most of us, you can provide for much of your power needs right now with a home solar system. Home solar systems provide years of reliable energy and can help you save money on electricity. If your supply of power from the grid isn’t reliable, as is the case for residents in Northern California, adding home batteries can give you peace of mind when the grid goes down. At Freedom Forever, we can build a solar system with or without batteries to meet your energy needs.