100 Mile Square Solar Array Could Power US

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The only people who say worse things about politicians than reporters do are other politicians.

Andrew Rooney. We appear to be in the process of confirming Andy's statement.


Figure 1: Example of a Large Solar Array.

Figure 1: Example of a Large Solar Array. (Source)

Elon Musk gave a talk at the National Governors Association where he stated that a 100 mile square solar array built in place like Nevada could generate an amount of electrical power equal to that of the present electrical grid. This seems like an easy calculation to verify and I thought I do that analysis here.

I arbitrarily assumed that the panel is going to be placed at Las Vegas – seems like a place in Nevada that most people are familiar with. I then need to determine the amount of solar energy available to a panel in Las Vegas. This calculation is greatly simplified by the existence of web sites that will tell you the solar irradiance at your location with respect to how you position your panel. My calculations assume tilting the panel toward the equator at an angle equal to the current latitude. This approach is simple and provides 18% more energy than just laying the panel flat on the ground.

Figure 2: A 100 Mile Square Solar Array in Nevada Could Power the US.

Figure 2: A 100 Mile Square Solar Array in Nevada Could Power the US.

Elon did his homework. Assuming a nominal solar panel efficiency, a 100 mile square panel positioned in Nevada could generate enough energy for the US. Because power is needed 24 hours per day, there are enormous issues associated with energy storage, but the energy is there.

Web Site Provide Solar Irradiance Nominal Solar Cell Efficiency Article on Musk's Talk Power of US Electrical Grid

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One Response to 100 Mile Square Solar Array Could Power US

  1. RONAN A MANDRA says:

    Interesting article as always. I believe a daytime correction is needed to account for night time when the sun is not shining.

     

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