Tesla’s aggressive push to transition the world to sustainable energy sources has reaped many rewards in recent years. The brand continues to advance solar technologies, electric vehicles and renewable energy battery storage devices to enable people to enjoy the benefits of solar energy, without the need to sacrifice.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has become a household name because of his ambition and big personality. These elements have also been a large driver of why Tesla has been so successful. and why many millions of people have made the switch towards renewable energy.
When it was announced that solar had officially become the cheapest energy in history, surpassing coal and gas, Musk was quick to respond on Twitter with a statement suggesting that the sun has more than enough energy within it to power human civilisation forever.
“That free fusion reactor in the sky conveniently converts ~4 million tons of mass into energy every second. We just need to catch an extremely tiny amount of it to power all of civilization,” he tweeted.
We know that the sun harnesses enormous amounts of energy, but is Musk’s statement true? Could the sun provide a limitless energy source for humanity until the end of days?
How much energy does the sun produce?
Let’s break this down into layman’s terms. The sun produces enough energy every hour to power 2,880 trillion light bulbs. The Tsar Bomba was the largest and most powerful nuclear bomb ever created – the sun’s energy is the equivalent of 1,820,000,000 of them.
So we are talking about an enormous amount of energy here and almost certainly enough to power the world forever and a day if we could harness it.
But how much of the sun’s energy actually reaches Earth?
Unfortunately, only one-billionth of the sun’s total energy output reaches Earth, and 99 per cent of that is bounced back into space by the clouds and the planet itself; so we are not talking about the limitless energy at the core of the sun making it to where it needs to be.
Then we look at solar panels themselves. The very best ones are about 20 per cent efficient, which means they are only converting 20 per cent of the sunlight hitting them into energy.
So was Elon Musk correct when he said the sun could provide all of our energy needs for the entirety of civilisation? Yes, but not yet. The technology is not at a point right now where we could power the entire planet from the sun infinitely, although we are making great strides.
Battery storage solutions are set to improve and solar cell efficiency will as well, but the big challenge for humanity will be achieving widespread adoption of solar panels. The next frontier is space. There is already a lot of investment and research going into getting closer to the sun’s face and transmitting this power back to Earth. When this is achieved, there will be more power available than we could ever hope to use.