Saturday, 30 April 2016

energy policy for a sane species

Imagine that the human race was capable of consideration for others, rationality and honesty. What would the world's energy supply look like?

The most recent estimate of global energy consumption is for 2013 - 5.67 10^20 joules

A kilowatt hour is 1000 x 60 x 60 joules = 3,600,000 joules = 3.6 10^6 joules.

So energy consumption is approximately 2.10^14 kilowatt hours per year.

For those interested in storage using Lithium ion batteries, known reserves of Lithium are 14 million tonnes  

So energy consumption rate is 2.10^14 / 365 approximately < 10^12 kilowatt hours = 1,000,000,000,000 = 1 trillion kilowatt hours per day.

In perspective, that's approx 200 kilowatt hours per person per day. That sounds a lot, but industry, war and transport use a lot more than people in their homes.

The diagram insolation.gif shows the power from the sun falling on Earth.

 For much of the landmass, especially between the tropics, there is better than 5 kilowatt hours per square metre per day. So 200 billion square metres has enough energy to run the whole of civilisation.

Imagine a square in the desert 400 kilometres (250 miles) on each side. That receives enough solar energy to support the current levels of squalid consumerism and warfare, let alone for a sane society.

To put things in context, that's about one third the size of Spain.

There are many problems associated with distributing solar electricity over a great distance, either as electricity or as hydrogen (using the electricity to hydrolyse water), but they aren't in the same league as the technical problems inherent in nuclear power, depending on gas from a politically unstable region, or powering vehicles with controlled explosions.

All that is lacking is the political will to encourage solar power in all regions, so the greatest producers have something to trade, and everyone benefits.


 environment, politics, psychology, renewable energy, solar


  1. Sane species??? I've yet to find that to be the case....

  2. sane species - a hybrid of dog and chimpanzee?

    Only the humans could invent the disease Pathological Wealth, and the fallout that cripples billions of fellow humans and our shared environment


comments welcome; spam is deleted :)