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Please begin with an informative title:

The solar energy that hits one square mile in a year is equivalent to 4 million barrels of oil.
This is a list of countries by oil consumption mostly based on The World Factbook. [2]
Rank        Country/             Oil -                Date of
                 Region          consumption      information  
1       United States         18,840,000       2011 est.
-        European Union      12,800,000        2011 est.
2        China                      9,790,000        2011 est.
(18,840,000 bbl per day / 4,000,000 bbl per mi² per year) * 365 days per yr = 1719.5 miles² of Solar Area (41.5 miles x 41.5 miles) would provide for the Total US annual Oil Consumption (circa 2011).

For context that land area, if put into solar production, which could make the U.S. Oil-Independent, is roughly the size of a typical county:

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county [Hamilton County, New York] has a total area of 1,808 square miles (4,700 km2), of which 1,720 square miles (4,500 km²) is land ...

-- pg 29 --

From each km² of desert land, up to 250 GWh of electricity can be harvested each year using the technology of concentrating solar thermal power. This is 250 times more than can be produced per square kilometre by biomass or 5 times more than can be generated by the best available wind and hydropower sites. Each year, each square kilometre of land in MENA [Middle East, North Africa] receives an amount of solar energy that is equivalent to 1.5 million barrels of crude oil[1]. A concentrating solar collector field with the size of Lake Nasser in Egypt (Aswan) could harvest energy equivalent to the present Middle East oil production[2].

[1] reference solar irradiance 2400 kWh/m²/year, 1600 kWh heating value per barrel

[2] Lake Nasser has a surface of 6000 km²,
Middle East oil production is currently 9 billion barrels/year

A recently released study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, estimates that the technical potential of photovoltaic cells and concentrated solar power (CSP) in the United States is as much as 200,000 Gigawatts, enough to generate about 400,000 TWh of energy annually.
-- pg 32 --

Appendix B. Energy Consumption by State

Electric retail sales in the United States were roughly 3,754 TWh in 2010 (EIA) [Energy Information Administration, Dept of Engery].

1 TeraWatt Hour = 1000 GigaWatt Hours   [or 1 TWh = 1000 GWh]
-- pg 19 --

The largest accessible but least tapped form of energy on earth is solar radiation on deserts. Its capacity, i.e. the annually received amount can be estimated in a rather straight forward way, since radiation is quite uniform across the desert regions. The hot deserts cover around 36 Million km² (UNEP, 2006) of the 149 Million km² of the earths land surface. The solar energy arriving per 1 year on 1 km² desert is on average 2.2 Terawatt hours (TWh), yielding 80 Mio Terawatt hours/year. This is a factor of 750 more than the fossil energy consumption of 2005, and there is still a factor of 250 if this demand would triple until 2050.

3,754 TWh * (1 km² / 2.2 TWh) = 1706 km² of hot desert (41.3 km x 41.3 km) would provide for the US annual Electricity consumption (circa 2010).

Or in miles, using the conversion:  mi² = km² * 0.38610215854245

Alternately, 658.8 miles² of hot desert (25.6 miles x 25.6 miles) would provide for that US annual Electricity consumption (circa 2010).

For some land-area ball-park size context:

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county [Weber County, Utah] has a total area of 659 square miles (1,710 km²)

Here's another handy U.S. "Electricity independence" land-size reference:

London is the capital city of England and has an area square mile of 659 sq mi (1,706 sq km).
This map give a context perspective that shows that size of London compared to Great Britain.

1 TeraWatt Hour = 1000 GigaWatt Hours   [or 1 TWh = 1000 GWh]

1 GigaWatt Hour = 1000 MegaWatt Hours   [or 1 GWh = 1000 MWh]

1 MegaWatt Hour = 1000 KiloWatt Hours   [or 1 MWh = 1000 KWh]

Wattage × Hours Used Per Day) ÷ 1000 = Daily Kilowatt-hour (kWh) consumption

1 kilowatt (kW) = 1,000 Watts

Typical Wattages of Various Appliances

Here are some examples of the range of nameplate wattages for various household appliances:

Personal computer
    CPU - awake  = 120 [watts]
    Monitor - awake  = 150 [watts]

Refrigerator (frost-free, 16 cubic feet) = 725 [watts]

Televisions (color)
    Flat screen = 120  [watts]

Water heater (40 gallon) = 4500–5500 [watts]

Water pump (deep well) = 250–1100 [watts]

How much electricity does an American home use?

In 2012, the average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. residential utility customer was 10,837 kWh, an average of 903 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per month.

Poster's Note:  I tried to do the math, to get the average Household share of that Weber County "Solar Area Footprint" -- but found out that the EIA (Energy Information Administration, DOE) includes: "Residential Sector, Commercial Sector, and Industrial Sector in their Total Retail Sales of Electricity" summary data (in that 3,754 TWh Total annual U.S. Load number).  

SO, I would need the "average annual electricity consumption" rates for those other 2 sectors, as well, and it still would be messy (summary of averages problem, yuk.)  Which kind of explains the 4 acres per year per average customer (?) solar footprint number I was getting, using just the 10,837 kWh annual household average, divided into the total consumption load.  In other words, I suspect Commercial customers, and Industrial customers are U.S. Energy-Hogs -- and the average annual "Solar Area footprint" area needed for a U.S. household would be much, much smaller, than this. Afterall Solar Homes, usually have a Solar Area footprint, that typically fits on the roof.

The good news is, that Weber County "Solar Area Footprint" -- already includes those Energy-Hogs sectors, in the math.  We still "only" need to find 658.8 miles² of hot desert (25.6 miles x 25.6 miles) to provide for the entire annual U.S. Electric Retail Sales way of life (circa 2010).  And be free from those equivalent "carbon footprints," due to the status quo Fossil-fuel Electricity consumption, in the process.

A Piece of Cake!


You must enter an Intro for your Diary Entry between 300 and 1150 characters long (that's approximately 50-175 words without any html or formatting markup).

... Five-square miles down -- only 653.8 miles² to go!

Five-square mile solar generating plant opens in Mojave Desert

by Michael R. Blood and Brian Skoloff, Associated Press -- Feb 13, 2014

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, sprawling across roughly 5 square miles of federal land near the California-Nevada border, formally opened Thursday after years of regulatory and legal tangles ranging from relocating protected tortoises to assessing the impact on Mojave milkweed and other plants.

The $2.2 billion complex of three generating units, owned by NRG Energy Inc., Google Inc. and BrightSource Energy, can produce nearly 400 megawatts -- enough power for 140,000 homes. It began making electricity last year.

Since 1 square mile = 640 Acres,

and 5 square miles of desert land will support 140,000 homes,

each home's average "Solar Area Footprint" share will be:

0.023 Acres per home  =  ((5 mi² x 640 Acres per mi²) / 140,000 homes)
Or equivalently:  995.7 ft² per home  (31.6 feet x 31.6 feet of desert solar) would provide for 1 home's Electricity consumption (circa 2014).  (That's almost postage-stamp size!)

    [using conversion factor:  1 Acre = 43,560 square feet.]

[ ... continuing ... ]

In 2012, the federal government established 17 “solar energy zones” in an attempt to direct development to land it has identified as having fewer wildlife and natural-resource obstacles. The zones comprise about 450 square miles (1,165 sq. kilometers) in six states -- California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico.

According to statistics compiled by the Energy Department, the solar industry employs more than 140,000 Americans at about 6,100 companies, with employment increasing nearly 20 percent since the fall of 2012.

... 450 square miles down -- only 208.8 miles² to go!

It's a start.

I wrote about it while back, after doing some extra-curricular OTJ research, to find out what's what:

Feds take one step closer to establishing 17 new "Solar Energy Zones" on Public Lands
by jamess -- Aug 05, 2013

Dry Lake -- Nevada:

Of course, some alliances, some nations, are way ahead of us -- in turning those dusty, baking deserts into the gold-rush industries of the 21st century ...

Could the desert sun power the world?

Green electricity generated by Sahara solar panels is being hailed as a solution to the climate change crisis

by Leo Hickman, The Guardian -- 11 December 2011

Last month, at its annual conference in Cairo, Dii [Desertec Industrial Initiative] confirmed to the world that the first phase of the Desertec plan is set to begin in Morocco next year with the construction of a 500MW solar farm near to the desert city of Ouarzazate. The 12sq km project [4.6 miles²] would act as a "reference project" that, much like Egypt's own project at Kuraymat, would help convince both investors and politicians that similar farms could be repeated across the Mena region [Middle East, North Africa] in the coming years and decades.

But, nobody ever said it would be easy ...

Desert solar power partners split

Karl Mathiesen, The Guardian, Sustainable Business -- 5 July 2013

Dii [Desertec Industrial Initiative] was an initiative formed between Desertec and a group of powerful corporate partners. They aimed to create a regulatory and political framework for the Desertec concept in the Middle East and north Africa. Shareholders included Deutsche Bank, UniCredit, HSH Nordbank and First Solar.

Their partnership contributed to the building of a 12 sq km solar farm at Ouarzazate in Morocco. Both groups have left the door open to working together in future.

Of course, I've written about that EU-based Desertec concept before too.  Here are some of the important bits, when it comes to converting our Carbon Footprints, into Solar Footprints -- over the course of this next century:

THE Desertec CONCEPT and Desertec-UK

Clean power from deserts

The Desertec Foundation (formerly the 'TREC' international network of scientists and engineers), in association with the Club of Rome, has developed the Desertec concept, described below, to take advantage of the truly enormous quantities of energy falling as sunlight on the world's deserts -- and wind energy in those regions too. Now the Desertec Industrial Initiative [Dii], a consortium of blue-chip companies, has been formed to make it happen, and the Desertec University Network has been established to promote Desertec-related research and teaching.

The Desertec concept

For a summary, click Desertec in brief.

Every year, each square kilometre of desert receives solar energy equivalent to 1.5 million barrels of oil. Multiplying by the area of deserts worldwide, this is several hundred times as much energy as the world uses in a year.

larger image

The larger red square on the left shows an area of 114,090 km² of desert (about 338 km × 338 km  [210 miles × 210 miles] ) that, if covered with concentrating solar power plants, would provide as much electricity as the world is now using. (Of course, the world's CSP plants would never be put all together in one square like that). The 'EU' square (19,200 km² or about 139 × 139 km  [86.3 miles²] ) shows a corresponding area for the European Union (when it included 25 countries). And the 'MENA' square (3,600 km² or 60 km × 60 km  [37.2 miles²] ) shows the corresponding area for the Middle East and North Africa.

      [Concentrating Solar Power Plant in the desert.]
Of course, for such a plan to work (efficiently piping Desert Electricity to distant Municipalities) we need many more super-efficient HVDC transmission lines to be built [High Voltage - Direct Current]. Which would mean many more Jobs of course, and the eventual milestone of Energy Independence with very few Carbon Footprints attached.

The way I look at, if China can put in these super-efficient HVDC transmission lines -- then why can't we?  In the long run, will we even have the choice -- not to?  Given the obvious cost benefits:

       [Image source document from e-Parliament.net:  pg 17.]

Poster's Note:  usually when I write a post like this, I get a barrage of comments along the lines of:

"We don't need more centralized power-production sources -- What we need is more decentralize power-production sources, from individual homes, and so many other unused rooftops."
Let me say to those critics:  
Yes, decentralized power-production sources are good -- they are great, even!  BUT not everyone can afford to convert their roofs -- shoot, not everyone can even 'afford a roof'!

I imagine that both sources (decentralized and centralized) of solar power generation sources (and wind too) will EACH continue to play their important roles. But without a 21st century transmission grid, we will never be entirely fossil-fuel free.  Individuals can't build one of those. That will take some serious National foresight, planning, and cooperative will.

The good news is, there is no shortage of "rooftop areas" out there, just waiting to converted to solar, if their owners get so motivated:
Recent studies have examined the potential of a full-scale deployment of rooftop solar in particular nations, if not the world. A 2005 study by Navigant Consulting concludes that covering about half the rooftop space in the US could replace the use of coal for electricity generation.[3]   A less detailed analysis of England's rooftop resources concludes that the yearly production of rooftop PV panels could exceed the nation's electricity use.[4, 5] Both of these studies posit PV conversion efficiencies of below 20 percent, and neither considers the use of thermal or hybrid PV/thermal panels.[...]

Mean rooftop area per person: 15m²

[...] One estimate of average global rooftop area per person puts the median value at 14.1 m² in 1970.[9]  [...] Given that, a value of 20 m² per person in 2015 is plausible.

So there is no shortage of roofs to convert. Me, I'm still working on buying my first one of those ... MY first "roof over my head."  I suspect my landlord, would not like me messing around, rewiring there's ... in the meanwhile.

Of course ...

[Image source:  Chicago Solar Architects -- Utility Companies Jumping on the Wave of Large Scale Solar Farms]

Of course ... that does not mean, the rooftop "opportunity" does not abound.

Cheers!  ... "Many hands make light work." -- John Heywood

Extended (Optional)

Originally posted to Digging up those Facts ... for over 8 years. on Sun Mar 16, 2014 at 12:46 PM PDT.

Also republished by SciTech.

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