Whether you are celebrating Festivus or getting ready for Christmas, you are probably using artificial lights during these darkest days of the northern hemisphere. You are probably scrambling to assemble, acquire or wrap presents. You may also being giving thought to those less fortunate. You may count your good fortune. But what if there was plenty for everyone?
Someone once told me that we are running out of resources. It seemed to make sense. If you use things and do not replace them, you run out. We learned that lesson as children with allowances, piggy-banks and cookie jars.
What happens if you bake more cookies?
What happens if the resources you use are part of a great circle (yes, like the LION KING) that is sustainable and reusable? Well it starts with imagination..
Mr. Scott seemed to produce something out of nothing all the time, in TOS - Star Trek - The Original Series.
Thought + Knowledge + Necessity + Energy = Voila
Sometimes you need to grease that knowledge it a little ingenuity or imagination. How about the energy?
Ever use a magnifying glass as a kid...a broken Coke bottle was a good substitute. Ever start a fire or burn paper, bugs or your friends toe? It was not the glass...it was the sun and the sun is still shining. How shiny is it?
If solar power is the purest form of renewable energy known, then how much solar power have we got?
In full sun, you can safely assume about 100 watts of solar energy per square foot. If you assume 12 hours of sun per day, this equates to 438,000 watt-hours per square foot per year.
Based on 27,878,400 square feet per square mile, sunlight bestows a whopping 12.2 trillion watt-hours per square mile per year.
With these assumptions, figuring out how much solar energy hits the entire planet is relatively simple. 12.2 trillion watt-hours converts to 12,211 gigawatt-hours, and based on 8,760 hours per year, and 197 million square miles of earth’s surface (including the oceans), the earth receives about 274 million gigawatt-years of solar energy, which translates to an astonishing 8.2 million “quads” of Btu energy per year.
In case you haven’t heard, a “quad Btu” refers to one quadrillion British Thermal Units of energy, a common term used by energy economists.
The entire human race currently uses about 400 quads of energy (in all forms) per year.
Put another way, the solar energy hitting the earth exceeds the total energy consumed by humanity by a factor of over 20,000 times.
Clearly there is enough solar energy available to fulfill all the human race’s energy requirements now, and for all practical purposes, forever.
The key is developing technologies that efficiently convert solar power into usable energy in a cost-effective manner.
For energy conversion constants a good website is Energy Conversion, to help elucidate this data.
The italicized paragraphs above come from the excellent page Ecoworld: Nature and Technology in Harmony ~ http://www.ecoworld.com/energy-fuels/how-much-solar-energy-hits-earth.html (Editing errors are our own).
It is a little complicated to follow, but the gist is this - there is plenty of sunlight to power all our needs.
20 Thousand Times what we need.
So we are learning, we are trying, we are imagining - but we can only get 2% - that is still 400 times what we currently need.
So the next time someone tells you we are running out of energy, answer "Imagine that".
PS the sun is predicted to last well beyond Human future history as we now imagine it.
Happy Holidays and think sunny thoughts.