• Question: Why solar? It may be more eco-friendly, but it cannot supply 61 million people.

    Asked by JohnCena to Pete on 10 Nov 2015.
    • Photo: Peter Burgess

      Peter Burgess answered on 10 Nov 2015:

      Saying solar can’t do something is a pretty blanket statement. I’m guessing you mean solar can’t supply the whole of Britain’s population with electricity. I’m also guessing you haven’t got a fixed idea of how much energy each person wants/needs/should have.
      I should be clear that I don’t think solar should be the only source of power for the UK or the world. We have the best wind resources in Europe, loads of opportunities for marine energy from the tides and the waves. I think a mix of different sources is likely to be the best answer in most places. The UK should get most if it’s power from wind in my view.

      The scientist in me wants to challenge your assumptions. So I will…
      So worldwide, there is currently about 200 gigawatts of solar power installed worldwide. Taking a fairly modest figure of 1000GWh/GW/year, solar produces 200 terawatt hours of power per year. A typical British household uses 3000kWh per year. Let’s round down to 2000kWh per year to make our maths easier. So we currently supply about a hundred million ‘British’ homes worldwide with solar power. Let’s say there are two or three people in each household which means there are a few hundred million people in the world getting their power from Solar.