Solar Income

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What is the Total Solar Income?

Sustainability of civilization (for many millennia) implies that humanity learns to live on its renewable energy income. That income of energy is that which comes from the sun. Therefore, the most fundamental question here is: how much solar energy income is available? And what does human civilization use today? The fact is, all of humanity today - primarily via fossil fuels - uses about 0.01% of the energy that is available - on a renewable basis - from the sun. See this basic calculation below - and convince yourself that the long term transition to renewable energy is not only possible - but inevitable - if civilization is to survive for more than 500 years from 2020.

Note that known fossil fuel reserves are estimated to last about 150 more years. [1]. Further, known reserves of nuclear power feedstocks will last approximately 200 years [2]. This is expandable to thousands of years if other techniques for extracting uranium are developed [3]. And - what about the unlimited reserves of hydrogen for fusion power? Practical fusion on earth is only 10 years away - it always was - and it always will be! That is a joke among fusion physicists. But the reality is that extracting fusion successfully - outside of the sun that is 93 million miles away - is not an easy thing to do.

Note also that humanity used 135 billion barrels of oil to date [4]. Known reserves are approximately 10x this [5]. So for perspective - the facts are that the supply is not unlimited. In fact, all of the energy from all fossil fuels ever used and still remaining in reserve - is equivalent to about 10 days of available solar income! Take that for perspective: all the conflict that is waged over scarce fossil fuels worldwide can vanish - if we decided to shift to renewable energy.

Please go through the basic calculations below to convince yourself that renewable energy is preferred for human prosperity - as indicated above. So that you can understand that these numbers are very compelling to act upon a renewable energy future - today.

Solar Income

  • Area of earth's surface perpendicular to sun - 130 trillion (1.3x10^14) square meters.
    • Radius of Earth - 6371 km - [6]
    • Pi Arr Squared is 1.3x10^14 square meters
  • Average insolation - 1000W [7]
  • Solar income is 130 quadrillion (1.3x10^17) watts upon the earth surface at any time.

Kardashev Scale

  • In 2017, we used 162,000 TWh of energy. [8]
  • There are 8,760 hours per year.
  • Thus, average power use is 18 TW (18 terawatts)
  • 1.3E17/18E12 = 7222.
  • This is a ratio of power. This is also a ratio of energy used (per given time)
  • Thus, the energy of solar income is over 7000x greater than current primary energy used
  • In other words, we are at 0.00014 on the Kardashev scale. That is about 1/100 of 1 percent, or 0.01%.
  • In other words - solar energy can provide all the energy to humanity - many times over - with no implication for scarcity for anyone anywhere in the world.

Historical Perspective

All fossil fuels, generated over millions of years - and used up over a few centuries by humans - are equivalent to only about 25 days' worth of the energy coming to the earth from the sun.

Humans use 7000x less power than available from solar radiation. This means that only a small fraction of the earth covered with solar panels can meet global energy demand. [9] But that can be distributed - with planning, we don't even need to go to deserts and natural areas - just cover areas already used up by humans such as rooftops, parking lots, highway rights-of-way.

Say we have about 500 years of fossil fuels total. That is 25 days of energy - of that which comes to the earth from the sun (500 years/7000 x 365 days/year = 25 days).

So if we use solar photovoltaics - at 15% efficiency - that means that all the energy content of fuels could be generated in about 25*7 days = 175 days. Or 1/2 year - to produce all known fossil fuel reserves using available modern technology - solar panels. This does not consider that there are only 6 or so solar hours available per day - so it could take as much as 2 years to generate the equivalent of all fossil fuels from photovoltaics (PV).

So the implications are significant:

  1. Don't worry about global warming. If you are really concerned, start an open source PV panel manufacturing operation - and stop all global warming from CO2 emissions today. The embodied energy is not an issue - The Fraunhofer report of 2014, based on data collected between 2010 and 2013, concludes that, depending on the type of panel used and the solar irradiation where installed, that the embodied energy in the panels can be produced by them in two-to-four years. [10]
  2. Use solar hydrogen to store solar energy for night-time use.

For OSE, the proposition is awesome - in 5 years or so, cut global carbon emissions to zero via viral replication of open source PV manufacturing and hydrogen generation and storage worldwide. This can be done using collaborative design and swarm builds - techniques that OSE is developing for purposes of global regeneration. This is a distributed alternative to centralized funding.