July 19, 2017
Over the weekend the National Governors Association held its 2017 Summer meeting, and its new Chair, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, kicked off his “Ahead of the Curve” initiative with his buddy, good ol’ Elon Musk.
During the talk, Mr. Musk held forth about what makes him tick, why AI is an existential threat to human civilization, and oh yeah, just how small of an area we’d need to power the whole country with solar panels.
“If you wanted to power the entire United States with solar panels, it would take a fairly small corner of Nevada/Texas/Utah. You only need about 100 miles by 100 miles to power the entire United States.
And the batteries you need to store that energy to make sure you have 24/7 power is 1 mile by 1 mile.”
He’s right! As we’ve been saying since 2011, it wouldn’t take much land at all to power the whole country with solar (Elon caught on in about 2015).
In fact, here’s how that 100 square miles looks on a map:
What he’s wrong about
The area cited by Mr. Musk covers all the electricity we currently use, but doesn’t take into account future needs (after all, we’re gonna need a lot of electricity for our new AI-driven robot overlords).
It also doesn’t take into account the fact that it would be near impossible to transmit that energy to all parts of the country, and, oh yeah, people live in those 100 square miles, too.
But Musk isn’t speaking literally here. He’s merely pointing out something true: we have enough elevated, shade-free surfaces in this country to completely power ourselves with solar power.
What he’s right about
Musk defines the coming transition to sustainable energy generation as a “physics problem” which can be solved by local generation and storage, saying “there will need to be a combination of utility-scale solar and rooftop solar, combined with wind, geothermal, and hydro… probably some nuclear for a while, in order to transition to a sustainable situation.”
He goes on to add “It’s going to be important to have rooftop solar in neighborhoods, because otherwise there will need to be massive new transmission lines built, and people do not like having transmission lines going through their neighborhood.”
We couldn’t agree more. If you’d like to part of the solution to this physics problem, connect with a local expert solar installer near you to find out how much you can save!
Watch Elon Musk’s NGA 2017 Appearance:
Last modified: July 19, 2017