Link of the Day 011508: A Solar Grand Plan [Scientific American]

One option for placement of 46,000 sq miles of solar arrays

Image Caption: Solar Radiation is plentiful in the U.S., especially the Southwest. The 46,000 square miles of solar arrays (white circles) required by the grand plan could be distributed in various ways; one option is shown here to scale.

In the January edition of Scientific American, A Solar Grand Plan describes how “solar power could end U.S. dependence on foreign oil and slash greenhouse gas emissions” by 2050.

A summary, courtesy of the editors:

  • A massive switch from coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear power plants to solar power plants could supply 69 percent of the U.S.’s electricity and 35 percent of its total energy by 2050.
  • A vast area of photovoltaic cells would have to be erected in the Southwest. Excess daytime energy would be stored as compressed air in underground caverns to be tapped during nighttime hours.
  • Large solar concentrator power plants would be built as well.
  • A new direct-current power transmission backbone would deliver solar electricity across the country.
  • But $420 billion in subsidies from 2011 to 2050 would be required to fund the infrastructure and make it cost-competitive.
Concentrated Solar

Image Caption: Concentrated Solar. Large concentrating solar plants would complement photovoltaic farms in the Southwest. The Kramer Junction Plant in California’s Mojave Desert using technology from Solel in Beit Shemesh, Israel has been operating since 1989. View larger version.

See also Here Comes the Sun–A Grand Plan for Solar Energy [SciAm podcast for Dec 19, 2007] that expands on the story.