How Many Solar Farms Does It Take To Power America?

I’ve already talked about what the impact of a solar farm is. According to Our World In Data in 2019, the United States of America used a little over 26 terawatt-hour (TWh) of primary energy consumption. According to World Data, the US actually uses almost 40 TWh of total energy a year. Yeah, that’s a huge discrepancy, maybe we should leverage a blockchain to keep track of energy usage data to avoid these kinds of mixups.

How Much Energy Does America Consume a Day?

Anyway, I digress. It takes an average of 4 acres of solar panels to generate a megawatt of solar power, we would need a lot of land. A terawatt-hour is equal to 1 MILLION megawatt-hours, which translates our consumption to 40 million MWh a year. Breaking this down into a daily average by dividing by 365 gives us an average of 110,000 megawatt-hours a day. 

To give you an idea of what 110,000 megawatt-hours is, let’s take for example the computer or phone screen that you are reading this off of. A laptop uses between 50 and 100 watts an hour, or an energy consumption of about 0.1 kilowatt-hour (kWh). Most cell phones use less than 10 watts an hour, or have an energy consumption of less than 0.01 kWh. Let’s remember that 1 megawatt-hour is equal to 1 million kilowatt-hours. That means we use eleven hundred thousand million kilowatt-hours of power a day.

Scrolling Through Social Media at Work

That’s enough to power 1.1 billion hours of laptop usage or 11 billion hours of phone usage. That means every day, we consume enough energy for you to browse social media for 11 billion hours, way more than you do during your usual workday, and than you will your entire lifetime. 11 billion hours is more than 125,000 years.

How Much Land Will These Solar Farms Take?

This is where the calculation can get tricky. Here’s the thing about solar energy. Solar energy comes from the sun. That means solar panels cannot produce energy 24 hours a day. They only produce energy during sunlight hours. That energy then has to be stored somewhere while it is not being used. Energy storage is a whole other topic in and of itself. Let me get back to the point, there’s only an average of 4 peak sunlight hours a day. A solar panel may get more than that, but let’s take a conservative estimate of our solar power generation and confine it to those 4 hours only. 

Back to the calculations. At 4 acres of solar panels to generate a megawatt-hour and 4 hours of power generation time a day, a 1 MW solar farm would generate 4 MWh of power over 4 acres every day. At 110,000 megawatt-hours of power needed a day to power America, we would need about 110,000 acres of solar farm. 110,000 acres? That sounds huge, that’s more land than the entire Mojave desert. It’s not as daunting as it sounds, there are 1.9 billion acres in the continental United States, and 110,000 acres is only slightly more than 0.5% of the total land of the continental US.

The Mojave Desert

How Many Solar Farms Are We Aiming To Build?

Assuming that the average solar farm we build produces 10 megawatts an hour, each one will produce 40 MWh a day. At 110,000 MWh a day, that would require 2750 solar farms that can produce 10 megawatts an hour. Wow! You say, 2750 solar farms? That’s a lot. How are we going to build 2750 solar farms? We’re going to raise money using blockchain technology and use the value of the solar farms to back the currency.

As Biden announced in September of 2021, the US government wants to power 40% of America on solar energy by 2035. We want to do it by 2030. 40% of 110,000 MWh is 44,000 MWh. We’ll need to build enough solar farms to power 44,000 MWh a day. 40% of 2750 is 1100, so if we build solar farms with an average size of 10 megawatts an hour production, we’ll need 1100 solar farms in the next 8-9 years. If we build them at 100 MWh production size, we’ll only need 110 solar farms. As people become more and more interested in saving the world and investing in green energy, the size of the solar farms that we can build will get bigger, so stay optimistic. Sign up for more information about the future of solar.