Politics, Hubris and Energy Security
Solar energy may strike some readers as an odd choice for a centralized energy system, given that many of its energy security benefits derive from its decentralized and modular nature. But consider this: the total solar energy absorbed by the Earth’s surface in 20 days is equal to all the energy contained in all the coal, oil, and natural gas on the planet. And nowhere is that energy so concentrated than in the earth’s deserts, which receive about 700 times more energy from the sun than human civilization consumes by burning fossil fuels. The world’s deserts are so big that covering half of them with existing solar photovoltaic (PV) panels would create 18 times the world’s energy supply. Using maps of solar insolation worldwide, an International Energy Agency taskforce estimated that a very small part of deserts, 4 percent, could provide all the world’s energy needs if covered with the kinds of solar panels currently available. As more government and commercial interests consider harnessing this solar energy, new terms have emerged to describe solar megaprojects.
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