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How much surface area would it take to power the world completely with solar or wind?

Sept 2, 2009 - Ariel Schwartz - Fast Company

Ever wonder how much space we would need to use to power the entire world with solar energy or offshore wind power? So did the good people at the Land Art Generator, who created two infographics that show the amount of surface area required to power our planet with renewable resources.

surface area required to power the world

According to Land Art Generator, 496,905 square kilometers are needed to power the world with solar energy. That's less than the surface area of Spain. And just a piece of the Sahara Desert could power all of Europe and North Africa.

surface area required to power the world

Wind power is a bit more complicated. 5.85 million square kilometers have to be dedicated to offshore wind to power the world. But while solar might be the wisest choice in terms of area required, wind could act as a strategic back-up for places with minimal sunshine.

Even though solar has the potential to power the world, the cost of pipelines to transfer it from place to place are prohibitory. For example, the planned Desertec solar pipeline from North Africa and the Middle East to Europe will cost at least $555 billion. And that's just to power 15% of Europe. But it's still comforting to know that we do have the capacity to completely wean ourselves off coal and other non-renewable resources completely.