A new report released by WWF says a world powered by solar panels would require an insignificant amount of land.
The report, based on studies of six countries and one region, shows in each case less than 1% of the total land mass in each case would be needed to provide 100% of projected electricity demand in 2050 if generating electricity with only solar panels.
Estimations were based on a study of Indonesia, Madagascar, Mexico, Morocco, South Africa, Turkey and the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.
WWF acknowledges that a world 100% powered by solar panels is highly unlikely. A more viable scenario is solar PV could provide about 30 per cent of global total electricity in 2050, so PV will therefore very likely require far less land than illustrated in the report.
Its calculations assume PV conversion efficiency of 15 per cent, which the WWF says is a conservative number based on today’s commercial technology and the reasonable assumption that technology will further improve between now and 2050.
We won’t have to wait until 2050 for that sort of performance. For example, REC solar panels; a popular choice in Australian home solar power installations, already have a module conversion efficiency of 15.8%.
WWF says PV technology does not need to conflict with conservation efforts and there doesn’t have to be a trade-off between panels, people and planet. Look around any town and city and there is a sea of panel-less rooftops that could be harvesting the energy of the sun; minimizing the amount of land required dedicated to ground-mount solar farms.
“As climate change increasingly threatens people and the natural world, it is more important than ever to work for the rapid and wide-scale adoption of well sited, responsibly operated renewable energy power facilities. Environmental protection and renewable energy can and are developing in parallel,” says Samantha Smith, leader of the WWF’s Global Climate & Energy Initiative.
The full report: “Solar PV Atlas: solar power in harmony with nature” can be viewed here (PDF).