Critics of renewable energy often argue that wind and solar power are “boutique” energy sources that could never satisfy the world’s energy needs, but one new report has found that solar power could provide all of the energy needed in many parts of the world. The report, which was produced by World Wildlife Fund (WWF), along with First Solar, 3TIER and Fresh Generation, found that in seven case studies, less than 1 percent of total land mass would be required to meet 100 percent of projected electricity demand in 2050, demonstrating that solar is indeed a viable energy source in many parts of the world.
The new report, Solar PV Atlas: solar power in harmony with nature, finds that solar energy production doesn’t have to be at odds with environmental conservation. For the study, WWF and its partners looked at Indonesia, Madagascar, Mexico, Morocco, South Africa, Turkey and the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. Although they represent diverse populations and economies, those countries and regions all have on thing in common: they all receive plentiful sunshine. But sunshine isn’t the only thing needed to produce solar energy; government policies that are favorable (or at least open to) renewable energy are also necessary, and “there is room for optimism in each of the selected regions,” according to the report.
In 2010, 16.7 percent of global energy consumption was produced by renewable sources, but solar accounts for just 0.1 percent of total global electricity generation. The report acknowledges that it’s unlikely that all of the electricity in any of those countries will come entirely by 2050, but it says that the “100 percent” scenario would be possible with minimal disruption to the environment. What would be more feasible, the report suggests, would be to provide somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 percent of global electricity production from solar by 2050.