There have been maps sent around, showing a large solar panel installation in a few places around the world, and how those sites, only a few percent of the land in the world, mostly in unused deserts, could provide all the electricity the entire world needs.
http://inhabitat.com/could-the-entire-world-really-run-on-solar-power/ recently posted an article using one of these maps. Wow, climate change is going to be really bad, and this is all we have to do? We should start Now.
Too bad they ignore engineering. Without checking their calculations, I’ll agree that a lot of solar power falls on each of those areas, and with simple calculations using realistic efficiency ratings of some types of solar panels, we would generate the power they say with the few square miles of solar cells they suggest.
But we couldn’t use that power generated.
Here’s what I emailed them:
For powering the world on 100% solar, you left out the cost and construction time for trans-global power delivery systems. Or do you expect the USA to go to bed at sundown? Or that solar energy will magically appear where needed when the sun shines on the other side of Earth?
You didn’t think about power delivery systems, did you?
What engineering and construction difficulties will there be, implementing trans-Pacific power lines from Arizona to all of Asia? How much will that power distribution system cost to build and maintain? Several times the cost of the solar panels.
How about security for solar-generated electricity traveling across the Middle East to Europe, across the Sahara to America? How do you protect long stationary targets for ISIL to bomb every week? How many USA troops are you going to kill guarding your “all solar” plan?
For every one square kilometer of solar cells a region needs during peak local use, it will also need solar cells to supply power to the night side of the planet. Have you calculated that amount for each region?
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544214007981 shows how expensive it will be (but possible) to power California with only solar photovoltaic + solar thermal + onshore/offshore wind + tidal/wave — even not counting the expense of rebuilding the national power grid to handle thousands of small power sources and keep those sources synchronized, it would be about 10 times as expensive as Molten Salt Reactors would be.
Molten Salt Reactors use no water, so have none of the water-based safety issues that Light Water Reactors have. They use molten fuel, so can use over 99% of the fuel (LWR uses about 2%). Some types of MSR can convert LWR 1000kg of 200,000 year waste storage, into 1 gigawatt-year electricity and 170kg waste to store for only 350 years (830kg to store for only 10 years). With no high pressure, there is no need in MSR for high-pressure pipes, no high-pressure safety systems, no need in MSR for a steam containment building.
Molten Salt Reactors can be factory built, shipped and installed underground, for total lifetime cost lower than coal (not even counting the medical expenses from using coal).
On average, the sun shines brightly about 8 hours a day, so you need a minimum of triple the number of solar cells the rated capacity of each solar cell says, to transport around the world; or you need power storage for triple the energy used, just to power the local region through one night.
Solar power needs either energy storage systems (with capacity for over a month of bad weather), and/or trans-global transmission lines, or base load power (coal, natural gas, or modern designs of nuclear plants).
Your paper calculations are interesting, but unworkable. You are lying about “100% Solar” as a realistic solution. You need to talk to engineers.
p.s. The Inhabitat site claims “9 June 2014 over half of Germany’s electricity demand was from solar, an unprecedented feat”. Nonsense, that would have required 100% during the daytime, to match the 0% at night. http://www.thelocal.de/20140619/germany-produces-half-of-electricity-needs-with-solar-power says “Analysis from the Fraunhofer ISE research institute showed solar panels in Germany generated a record 24.24 GW of electricity between 1pm and 2pm on Friday, June 6th. And on Monday June 9th, which was a national holiday, solar power production peaked at 23.1 GW, which equalled 50.6 percent of total electricity demand – setting another milestone.” That is peak solar producing 50% of national demand for one hour (or for the few minutes the peak lasted), on a holiday. Not 50% for the day. Good, Germany is building solar energy; since shutting down their nuclear plants they are having to use more coal.