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Clean Power solar energy potential

Published on April 18th, 2012 | by Zachary Shahan


“In 14 and a half seconds, the sun provides as much energy to Earth as humanity uses in a day.”

April 18th, 2012 by  

Our quick post the other day on a fun image noting that deserts receive more energy from the sun in 6 hours than humankind consumes within a year was quite popular, as was Vote Solar’s witty solar energy spill billboard, so I figure you might also like the image above that the Australian Youth Climate Coalition dropped on the CleanTechnica ‘timeline’ on Facebook. As it notes, in 14 and a half seconds, the sun provides as much energy to Earth as humanity uses in a day.

It reminds me of this next image, which I am fond of sharing, that shows annual renewable energy potential compared to the total energy potential of finite energy resources:

solar energy

"Comparing finite and renewable planetary energy reserves (Terawatt‐years). Total recoverable reserves are shown for the finite resources. Yearly potential is shown for the renewables." (source: Perez & Perez, 2009a)

In other words, people who say we don’t have space to power the world with renewable energy are off their bloody rocker. 
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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) one letter at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor. Otherwise, he's probably enthusiastically fulfilling his duties as the director/editor of EV Obsession, Gas2, Solar Love, Planetsave, or Bikocity; or as president of Important Media. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, energy storage, and wind energy expert. If you would like him to speak at a related conference or event, connect with him via social media:, .

  • Edward Kerr

    For some really cool info-graphics and insight into the “solar’ potential a look at this video of a lecture (don’t worry it’s a TED and only 13min) by Joe Jordan (a real scientist) is in order. Enjoy…

    • Zachary Shahan

      Thanks, will check that out!

  • Richie

    Average annual growth of energy consumption is 2.6% (since 1966, BP statistical review, not including wood localy used for fire).
    At this rate, the “small” 16TWy/y we use will become a whopping 24,000 TWy/y in 285 years.

    More than what the Sun gives.

    And thermodymadics tell that we will boil in the co-generated heat.

    Cutting down our energy use is imperative (by 3 to 10 times for OCDE countries down to 2000W/capita which is the current world average of primary power consumption)

    • Zachary Shahan

      Certainly important to cut down energy consumption. But I also wouldn’t extrapolate that growth for so long. That’s nearly impossible, in many respects.

  • Luke

    I’ve seen that bubble graph before… and it’s truly amazing how much sunlight the Earth receives – it dwarfs even the potential of wind energy. I also love the concept of space-based solar power, but its too expensive to work at the moment.

    Nice post…

    • Zachary Shahan

      Thanks. A good image is worth a thousand words… or maybe even many more. 😀

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