Solar can't perform, period.

Solar Panel Pictures

Inspired by grossly-inaccurate statements published on ScientificAmerican.com, regarding a new Arizona solar power plant, I decided to crunch a few numbers on solar power.

The results, independent of PR and marketing spin...are depressing.


The power plant's case study website site declares plant output at an averaged 52,184,916.67kWh/month (626.219 GWh / 12 months)

The EIA's latest report declares an averaged American home's power consumption at 903kWh/month.

Please, correct me if my calculator is broken, but my math says the maximum number of average american homes helped by this $1.8 Billion 2,400 acre solar array isn't 230,000 households, but it's instead roughly 57,790 households.

Let's explore these numbers for a moment :

  • A rough price-tag for the plant is $31,147/household, or $34.6 Million per 1GWh/month of capacity.
  • The US Census Bureau says there's 115,226,802 American households.
  • All US Households combined, we consume roughly 104,049,802,206 kWh/month (104TWh/month)
  • For this option to scale across the entire US, and support ONLY households, it'll cost us $3,588,969,201,894. Or another way of saying it: $3.58 Trillion
  • To meet ONLY the needs of ALL households within the US, we would need to cover an area the size of New Jersey with solar panels, using technology we can put into production, today.
  • Total energy consumption across all sectors in the US (commercial, residential, industrial, transportation, etc) is 29.26PWh/year (or 2,438 TWh/month).
  • That means our homes consume roughly 4.25% of all energy consumed in the US.
  • To provide enough electrical power for all sectors in the US, we would need enough solar panels to cover the land area of approximately 475,000 square kilometers, at a total cost of $84.3 Trillion.
  • For comparison, Texas is 676,000 kilometers, and California is 403,000 kilometers.

Our energy needs are consistently increasing by approximately 20% per decade.

Sorry, even with orders of magnitude improvement in efficiency, in cost-reductions, and/or in reduction of raw material needs, solar isn't going to save us. Not now, and most certainly not within the lifetime of any living human.

We need solutions within the next couple of decades.

It's time to stop wasting energy.