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In something I read recently, some computation had been done of the required area of solar collection (panels) to meet the calculated present world energy needs including conversion to automotive power plants. My first question to the guy would be "show me your math". Kind of a "regional" situation of the way someone came up with the number of neural connections in the human brain being greater than the atoms in the universe. "Could you run me the research and calculations for your results?"
But okay, so some 100,000 square miles panels which absorb X amount of radiation which, when converted becomes Y mgW or gW (gigaWatts) of electricity. There's surely 100,000 square mile of useable area on the earth much of it is in dry regions where disruption of moisture percolation back into the ground is no issue at all. And if birds get roasted mid-flight, perhaps the nomads on the ground would benefit from pre-cooked meals and thus have to burn less camel dung to cook with.
At any rate, 100,000 mile, though, becomes somewhat a problem of the in-between. For a lot of regions just aren't suitably sunny for such massive collection spreads. One such is the whole Pacific Northwest. And lots of everywhere else. And nights. And when there are sandstorms even in the deserts. And we could go on and on
defeating the very premise of the promise of the expanse as the solution to the collection.
So this guy's research also took into account some kind of accounting ("show me the breakdown, buddy") of a summation of rooftops and parking lots and southward-facing walls and . . . . yes, distributing panel locations so that wherever the sun shines at least sometimes there's going to be collection, it seems proveable by the conversion of light to watts that solar energy could provide for most of the world's needs.
Static. Getting into rampant mobility is a problem called "distribution". Routes such as rails can obviously be done electrically. But automotives can't be powered off overhead witers (catenary) such as the Hartford to NYC (and foreign rail) systems.
I think it can be done (perhaps with the exception of extremely "heavy industry" such as steel manufacture, anodizing, smelting, etc.) But I think there should be (and there will be) reduction in use. Zip cars as needed. Less commuting perhaps by 4-10 hour days (which would save 20% fuel and emissions). More people returning to city/walking-distance living in lofts or, more and more multi-use buildings (residential and commercial/office).
I don't think any "renewable conventionality" system is sensible or safe unless society and its systems are cut back from the binge of energy we now consume. We'll have to learn to find our way around without lighting up the night to daylight lumens. And we'll have to be prepared for "brownout" interludes at least regionally, due to cloud cover. And we should damn well be prepared for emergency situations such as some massive volcanic eruption that would block the sunlight with fumes and particulates perhaps for weeks.
Thus, no matter how much and how fast we can convert to "renewables", we must maintain the remaining "conventional" resources and the systems that generate fuels and energy from them. We may need the backup paradigm even if every surface of everything including hats we'll wear have solar collectors on them.