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How much energy does the sun produce? (and other fun facts)

Avatar for Dave Llorens
Published on 10/12/2009 in
Updated 02/28/2018
how much energy does the sun produce

Image by NASA

I love the sun. Any bask in it is a revitalizing pause. Even when it’s cold outside, that radiating warmth from way out in space makes me feel pretty lucky. Here are 3 reasons why I think the sun is so amazing:

#1: Ever look up on a hot day and say, “I wonder how much energy the sun produces?” Well, it’s enough this hour to power 2,880 trillion light bulbs

In the image below you will see precisely 2,880 trillion light bulbs. Please pause for a moment to count them all to develop a respect for how much energy the sun produces.

millions of lightbulbs

That’s like giving every single person on the planet (that’s 7 billion people) a light bulb which will shine bright for their entire lifetime. Every hour, each square meter of the upper atmosphere receives 1.367kWh of solar Energy. Since a 60 watt bulb consumes 60 watt x hours in one hour, or 60 Wh x 24 hr/day = 1440 Wh per day and there are 120 trillion square meters in our atmosphere, that’s like dropping 120 TRILLION 60 watt light bulbs and still having enough electricity in one hour of sunlight for ALL of those light bulbs to shine for 24 hours!

#2: The sun is a giant nuclear explosion!

earth distance from sun

Located a mere 93 million miles away from our planet’s surface, the Sun is a thermonuclear fusion reaction. Good thing it’s that far away, since nuclear fusion involves temperatures in excess of 5700 oC, (and as high as 14 million oC in the case of earth’s sun). This reaction requires massive amounts of pure hydrogen gas which is found exclusively in outer space.

#3: The sun continuously pelts the earth with 35,000 times the amount of energy required by all of us who now use electricity on the planet!

That is a MASSIVE amount of electricity. That purple square above is the land area required in the United States covered in concentrating solar technology to power our entire country. Curious? Just see how far using $68B to develop solar thermal plants would go to securing our energy independence.

The main reason why we must use more of the energy the sun produces for our electricity

Out of all that energy from the sun, how much energy the sun produces accounts for less than .1% of it for electricity

(about 2% of the energy in the United States comes from the sun)

More than any other source, we depend on electricity generated from the combustion of fossil fuels to power heat engines, which in turn rotate electrical turbines. Fossil fuels are matter which once lived on the earth’s surface, absorbed the sun’s radiant energy, died, decomposed, and became integrated into the planet’s metamorphic geology. When fossil fuels are dug up and combusted in the atmosphere, fossilized solar heat energy is released and can be harnessed to do work.

However, this turns out to be a very inefficient use of energy.  The second law of thermodynamics dictates any energy conversion involves an efficiency loss, and heat engines are one of the least efficient ways to convert energy. (Further inefficiencies result from the extraction of fossil fuels and the transport and transmission of that energy to all of us.)

In addition to being inefficient, combusting fossil fuels for energy is also impractical. Fossil fuels are the product of millions of years of undisturbed geologic action. Burning them releases carbon into the atmosphere at a rate which disrupts ecological processes.

wind turbines

solar thermal spain

Luckily, we’ve come up with more direct and efficient means of soaking up solar energy. Huge mirrors concentrate the sun’s rays on a thermal storage agent like water, which in turn generates steam to power turbines. Photovoltaic cells convert photons of sunlight directly into voltage and generate electrical direct current. Radiant solar energy effects movement of atmospheric fluids like air and water. And kinetic energy of moving air or water can then be harnessed to rotate an electrical turbine. Brilliant!

Solar panels, wind farms, and the like are a great solutions for the long term. If you’re wondering how you can avoid the hassle and destruction of old skül energy extraction, you’ve come to the right place. Ask your local installer how you can start harvesting energy directly from our sun.

Last modified: February 28, 2018

26 thoughts on “How much energy does the sun produce? (and other fun facts)

  1. Avatar for Larry Larry says:

    When you think about how much energy the sun sheds onto the earth it’s no wonder global warming is a reality. I bet that all of man’s activities to produce energy from fossil fuels don’t add up to effects of a single day of sunlight.

    1. Avatar for Michael Michael says:

      But we set a greenhouse gas free that traps the energy from the sun so the earth can not get rid of it in the night but the very next day the earth receives the same amount of energy from the sun again. That’s what they talk about in a nutshell

  2. Avatar for RichMJones RichMJones says:

    Seriously it would take week or two to address the physics and some notions in these comments.

  3. Avatar for Boone Boone says:

    Yes, 186,000 miles per second, the speed of light is the fastest thing known. There are other forms of energy that the sun gives off, but the 2 main things are visible light, and infrared light(heat). Coming in 3rd is ultraviolet light(UV rays) which our atmosphere blocks most of it, and a small percentage i can’t remember reaches the ground, and deteriorates everything. I sure am glad that more UV rays dont reach the ground! Scientists have been working on trying to get stuff to go faster that the speed of light for many years, at various places in the world. The most prominent in my mind is the “Hadron Particle Collider”. But no one has been able to make anything go faster than the speed of light. I use solar panels to charge battery bank for lighting and some independent outlets, but the high drain appliances and other outlets for items not really needed, are on the grid at the current time.? i am trying to acquire a turbine and use as a hybrid system.

  4. Avatar for Mike Madden Mike Madden says:

    In 1974 a friend & I took 4 hits of LSD each & went for a ride. While driving thru an apocalypse, God came to the rescue (at my urgent request), appearing as a bright Light, nearly vaporizing me! He was very nice & helpful. The energy involved was unimaginable. The odometer read 240, but it may have been parsecs. We travelled from Port Edwards to La Crosse & back, in Wisconsin.

  5. Avatar for 8th grader 8th grader says:

    Dear Dr. Josh Banks i have to disagree with your comment see im only 14 and i already know when mercury and venus will explode. never In the bible it never sys anything about the planets exploding it only says that Christ will come back and bring those who believe in him to heaven

  6. Avatar for PERSON PERSON says:

    you evolutionists are stupid the earth will end when god comes to take me home. go to church

    1. Avatar for TJ Mackwell TJ Mackwell says:

      I think You NEED to actually TRULY connect and understand the “Ulmighty” creator.. The bibles of the world are simply man made propaganda, to control people, for whatever mostly GOOD,, (or Bad) reasons, but are NOT an absolute connection to, or proof of ANY God, or future !

  7. Avatar for Me Me says:

    I say we put the sun out before it’s too late!

  8. Avatar for Anonymous Anonymous says:

    the sun emits unbelievable amounts of energy every 2nd…work out how much energy it will emit in 4.5 billion years and you will have the amount of energy a supernova emits EVERY SECOND! Truly mindblowing ain’t it!?

  9. Avatar for Student Student says:

    In all my studies of the distance between the planets, I think most human beings cannot comprehind the distance between the planets in the milky way galaxy. All the maps I’ve ever seen showing the distance between in planets is not to proportion, but I think whoever designs these maps does this so human beings can conceptualize and comprhend the size of the planets. If you just look at the size of the sun, and the distance between the first planet closest to the sun, the distance between them is unbelievable. What I understand is that we are the third planet closets to sun, but yes we are a spec of sand. But we are not the only ones in the milkway galaxy that is a spec of sand. I am a architectural student and I study space, I tried building a 3d model of the milky was galaxy using my 3d software, and the software would not allow me to design a 3d map in km, So I moved the decimal point over, and the map I created is undescribeable. I can’t even do a presentation on any board size to show my 3d model. The distance between the planes is just too far apart. The planets look like specs of sand, but certain planets look smaller than a dime. I think human beings think Earth is this huge planet made of 74% sea water, and we live on an average of 26% of possible land on the planet, overpopulation burden on the planet is describeable. As a human being I can’t even eat fish anymore, because I’m worried about mercury poisoning, and if you go back to the new testament in the bible they lived off fish. I won’t even go back to the old testament where they lived off bread.. The map I created in 3d space and the distance between the sun and earth is unbelievable. We could not ever travel through universe with our technology. The reality that the sun keeps our planet alive, and the distance between the sun and earth is unbelievable. Even my tiny map was out of proportion. So if my map is out of proportion, and the real distance between the planets…you cannot make a real map right now in virtual space. I can’t even design a real map of the milky way galaxy. The distance is just too far apart. Please, explain to me and reply what would happen if a solar wind would hit us in the future like it did every other planet in the milky way galaxy.

  10. Avatar for Marin Tomuta Marin Tomuta says:

    If ‘nothing’ is faster than the speed of light, the the only way to travel at the speed of light is to become light; or find a way to break the universal laws (but you might go to universal jail, so I don’t know?) Find a way or make one. Think outside the brain.

  11. Avatar for Marin Marin says:

    I could be wrong about the sun shrinking or expanding. But most living things struggle to survive. And if the theory is that it will supernova out, this means that pressure will increase. But if it expands it could expand non-supernova and just dissipate. Regardless just because we observed and theorized other stars doing it does not necessarily mean our will. Humans have naturally evolved to create artificially. 5 billion years is s long time to us. It’s theorized modern humans evolved some 200k years ago. And it takes the sun 250 million years to orbit the galactic core. So we have a few chances to learn, evolve and plan it right. (20) The future does not mean the past will repeat. Existence (the universe) is dynamic. And as some say: correlation is not causation. If your ‘friend’ jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?

  12. Avatar for Marin Marin says:

    Even better idea: human will evolve into robots/machines naturally; are we there yet. Reminds me of a webpage titled: conscious robots. Yay.?

  13. Avatar for Marin Marin says:

    In order for life to expand out of the solar system more solar energy will need to be captured. I think the sun is shrinking/withering as it ages. It will get more concentrated, pull the planets closer and their moons and cause life on and off earth to evolve at fast rates (we have people in space year-round). The universe is dynamic not static. There are cycles, but they are dynamic cycles. And let’s not forget we are a part of this process not apart from it. IT made us. And IT’s still making life causing it to adapt to universal laws. IT is in control. Humans will mesh with machines which can resist heat better than our flesh and we will get closer to the sun until we can capture more and more of its energy to travel to the next nearest star system and extract the energy and matter from that. Onward to the Galactic core, Ad Infinitum. Add possible competiton or interaction with life from other systems. Anyway that’s what I imagine. Life will reach Venus and Mercury because of the advantage of capturing more sunlight. Hence the two main differences in humans: orientalist and occidentslists (basically a religious difference).

  14. Avatar for Garzhad Garzhad says:

    I think the size of land depicted is grossly underestimating whats required. Ivanpah is one of the most advanced and efficient solar thermal installations and even in the sunniest part of the US only generates 0.7TWh per year while taking up 14.17KM of space at a price tag of 2.2 billion. In order to power New Jersey that way you’d need 107 Ivanpahs, taking 1512km of space(7% of entire landmass), cost 235billion. BUT! NJ doesnt get anywhere near as much insolation as Cali and its cloudy a good% of the time, so you’d need to double if not triple those figures. Thats completely and totally infeasible. In comparison the Salem Creek Nuclear Complex takes up 1 km, generates 27TWh(33% of our electricity), and only cost 10 billion to build. Much cheaper, much less space, just as clean, constantly running. Easy to see which is better. Rooftop solar and Tesla power walls are a good idea for homeowners and the like but commercial solar does not inspire me at all.

  15. Avatar for Confodencial Confodencial says:

    doesn’t the sun produce 17 trillion WATTs of electricity a second ???

  16. Avatar for timothy timothy says:

    what is the amounts of energy does the sun produce a day

  17. Avatar for Nasser Nasser says:

    So the Sun is 93 million mile away from us… and earth is a dot of sand comparing to the gaint Sun… is it passible that a single ray of the Sun would make a diffrent in tempreture from my location Dubai (which is worm now) and London (which is freezing cold)?

    1. Avatar for Ben Zientara Ben Zientara says:

      It’s all about the angle of the dangle and the motion of the ocean.

  18. Avatar for Reality Reality says:

    Did any of you go to school? 6 billion years? The sun only has about 4.5 billion years to go before it burns out. It’s expanding as we speak. In a million years it will be to hot to support life and about 3 billion years Mercury and Venus should be engulfed. Maybe the earth too.

  19. Avatar for Dr. Paul Gregor Dr. Paul Gregor says:

    Neither Venus nor Mercury will explode. Around six billion years from now, a point in time in which humans will be far deceased, the sun will grow to a size in which Mercury and Venus will be swallowed by the now helium-based sun.

    1. Avatar for Ben Zientara Ben Zientara says:

      Hey yourself.

  20. Avatar for Dr josh banks Dr josh banks says:

    No they are not I’m an astronomer and mercury and Venus will not explode for 7,000 years

  21. Avatar for Anonymous Anonymous says:

    Mercury and Venus are going to explode within a few years from the sun then next planet to be done and dusted is earth so we all gonna die

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