Solar Powered Reality

A message from my sister:

Steven Den Beste ran the numbers a few years ago on the absolute maximum amount of energy you can get from terrestrial solar harvesting. He looked at a simple fact: the amount of solar energy that hits a square meter in Albuquerque.
Assuming 100% efficiency (ha ha ha--a scientific impossibility) of the solar harvester, it would take an area of 89 square miles of solar panels to supply California with enough energy to merely replace its use of gasoline (based on 1998 data)--he did not calculate our current electrical or other energy usage. Assuming gas amounts to about half of our energy consumption, and assuming a 33% energy efficiency, you'd have to cover an area approximately 21 miles by 25 miles with solar panels to make up for California's energy needs.

525 sq miles, just for sunny California.

You can do all the nanotech and science experiments you want, but in the end, you can't make the sun send more energy down to the earth.

Indeed! Let's add a bit more perspective. According to the CIA, the USA has 4,165,110 km of paved roadway. Let's assume that the average width of a roadway is 50 feet, just a guess. Suppose that instead of paving all those streets, roads, highways and expressways we paved a big square in the middle of the desert. How big on a side would that square be?

sqrt(4165110 * 5/8*5280*50)/5280 = 157.0078
That square would only be 157 miles on a side. Think how much effort it took to pave that much. Think about how much effort it would be to cover that area with solar panels.