On the subject of practical plans, or things that might be mistaken for same at first glance, someone on TheTango.net says “Scientists say, if just 1.2% of the Sahara Desert is covered by Solar Panels we could have produce enough energy to power the Entire world.” And you may object that whoever this person is, they’re not a reputable source like say Michael Mann or Al Gore. But it’s a problem when such calculator-free ideas float cheerily about convincing the youth of today that all you need is will. Someday they will be the grumpy adults of tomorrow asking why didn’t someone tell me the Sahara was that big.
Perhaps big isn’t the word. Vast might be more appropriate. According to Wikipedia the Sahara is 9.2 million square kilometers so that disarming “just” conceals that we’re talking about 110,000 square kilometers of solar panels. As Wikipedia also explains, after the surprising news that the only deserts larger than the Sahara are found in the Arctic and in Antarctica.
Another way of expressing it is that the Sahara occupies about 6% of the total land surface area of our planet (148.9 million km2). So the plan is “just” to put solar panels on .07% of our standing room. Which might, one feels compelled to observe, require quite a bit of raw material just to build the panels and their mounts, not to mention the grid to bring all that power from Chad to the Czech Republic, Chile and China. It’s also not obvious where we’d dump all those panels when they wore out in 20 years, unless you’re going on the “when you’ve seen one desert” notion that we can just leave them where they are and panel another 110 thousand square kilometers in 2041 or thereabouts. And a recent Daily Mail piece also observes that the sorts of giant “battery farms” this kind of energy production entails are not without certain dramatic explosive hazards.
If someone proposed filling that much of the Sahara, and the planet, with fossil fuel plants you’d hear a lot of objections including some based on practical calculations. So ideally with solar you’d hear the same… even if “Scientists say”.
Some might be tempted to dismiss this claim as just one odd outlier. But unless proponents of alternative energy start disassociating themselves with such blithely absurd pronouncements, they are guilty of the same kind of fact-free advocacy.