Solar on More Than Tops of Buildings

Singapore may soon get 20% of its energy from solar parks in Australia. The plan is to cover 10,000 square kilometres of outback with solar collectors and send the resulting 10GW of energy through a 4370 kilometre long undersea cable. With this, Singapore, covering a land area of only 725 square kilometres, would make a strong step toward becoming carbon neutral by using large areas of a far away land.

Expand this idea further and there’s great potential. Globally about 15% of Earth’s land surface is barren, i.e. not able to support life. If we cover this land with solar collectors then it would generate 138% of the total primary energy that humans used in 2018. While most of the barren lands occur slightly north of the equator, e.g. the Sahara desert, most people live in temperate climates further away from the equator. So conducting electricity for thousands of kilometres is essential. But this and others seem to be simple engineering challenges that are keeping us from this potential.

Now imagine a future where every major population centre is tied to solar parks in barren lands throughout the world. If this were achieved then we’d have a very good chance of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Are you ready to place your reliance upon solar parks in far away lands rather than on far away oil fields?

Ouarzazate – James Allen, NASA