How many solar panels would it take to run the earth?

The sun is an endless source of free and renewable energy, and one hour of sunshine is enough to supply the energy requirement of the entire world for one whole year! It’s such a wasted energy source, considering that solar power comprises only 0.39 percent of the energy use in the U.S. last year.

It’s not too late to start using sunshine for power, though, as the sun won’t perish for the next few billion years. A lot of products and systems are being released to tap into this unlimited power source.

However, it seems that the world is moving at a snail’s pace in terms of solar technology. For starters, the existing range of batteries that can use solar power to recharge have limited capacities to absorb all of the energy the sun is projecting on the planet. Another dilemma is the low efficiency of solar panels, reaching only up to 20 percent tops.

Considering these limitations, is it possible to use solar panels to supply the energy requirements of the whole world? You may think that we need to cover the entire planet with solar panels for this to work, but that’s just not correct. According to the folks at the Land Art Generator Initiative, even if the current crop of solar panels can reach up to 20 percent efficiency only, we just need roughly 496,805 square kilometers of solar panel area in order to power the whole world throughout the year. That’s an area roughly the size of Spain! Spread out across the globe, you would hardly notice them.

For now, this is just a figment of the human imagination, but we’re hoping that this becomes a reality so that we can do away with depleting fossil fuels.

[Photo courtesy of Matt Hintsa on Flickr]