Solar parks, solar panels on rooftops and even solar panel laden streetlights have become common sights virtually all around the globe. Even though solar energy is nearly not as popular as grid power, it is being looked at as a feasible means of acquiring electricity as fossil fuel rates around the world have already begun to soar and global supplies are threatened by the risk of depleted reserves. The question thus arises- can solar energy generation lead to less consumption of fossil fuels? Let’s find out.
How much electricity do we use?
Judging by data released by monitoring agencies, the global energy consumption in 2012 was around 19,090 billion kWh annually. The annual electricity consumption per capita was 2,718.66 kWh per person for the same year.
How much electricity is currently produced using fossil fuels?
Global electricity production for 2012 was 20,250 billion kWh of which only 24% was from renewables sources like hydroelectric sources, wind turbines and solar panels. At the moment, 32% of total global fossil fuel use goes into electricity production (out of which 9% is produced using oil, 29% is produced using natural gas and a whopping 63% of global energy production comes from burning coal). This means that more than 76% of the entire world’s electricity or 15,390 billion kWh of electricity is produced using fossil fuels alone.
The German solar electricity production model
On Saturday, May 25, 2012, Germany’s solar power production systems fed 22GW of power into the nation’s power which was the equivalent of the power generated by 20 nuclear power plants! This particular spike in solar electricity generation accounted for 40% of the entire nation’s energy demand on the day!
What’s remarkable to note here is that this amazing sun-powered electricity production stat was recorded when the country only has the infrastructure to generate roughly 5.3% of electricity that the country needs or roughly 28,000 GWh of annual yield.
While this statistic marks a rare high in terms of energy generation, it does exemplify just how easily solar power can replace traditional fossil fuel-fed electricity generation even in countries that receive as less sunlight as Germany. Interestingly enough, Germany plans on producing 100% of all its electricity needs through renewable sources including solar power by 2050 and by the looks of the May 25, 2012 spike, it seems like the nation might reach that goal by 2020 itself!
Energy consumption by sector
In 2008, industries used 37% of global energy consumption, commercial and personal transport accounted for 20% of it, commercial uses like provision of water and sewer services and lighting, heating and cooling of commercial buildings accounted for 5% of it and residential use like appliances, lighting, heating and cooling represented 11% of global energy consumption. Loss of energy in energy generation and transmission made up for a whopping 27% of global energy consumption.
How solar energy would impact fossil fuel use?
If the German model of solar energy generation and use is used as a starting point and commercial, transport and residential consumption of electricity is met through solar energy alone, the world’s dependence on fossil fuels-fed electricity would drop down significantly.
By rough estimates, there are 1.5 billon houses in the world. Each house requires, on an average, 4,800 kWh of electricity each year. If each house was fitted with solar panels, it would produce 7,344 kWh of electricity per year which would mean that around 2,544 kWh of clean energy per house would be fed back into the grid. And these estimates don’t even count how much energy solar panel covered skyscrapers, large commercial buildings, warehouses and solar parks would be able to generate.
In theory, a 10 storey-tall skyscraper covered entirely with solar panels should be able to generate enough electricity to power all the vehicles of the inhabitants living in it while meeting their residential electricity needs! The same holds true for a 3 bedroom house with a 600 sq. ft. roof.
While there is no way to estimate what kind of improvements would be made towards making PV panels and battery technology more efficient, we can only say that switching to solar power can potentially turn every man made structure into a power generation system. Solar power is free and clean and can liberate humankind from dependence on fossil fuels for good.
This Post is written by Claudia. She is a writer/blogger. She writes articles on Technology, social media, WordPress, Gamification, luxury interior design, website development, blog and online development etc. These days she contributes on punchh.