How Much Land Does Solar, Wind and Nuclear Energy Require?
….According to the MIT authors, powering 100 percent of estimated U.S. electricity demand in 2050 with solar energy would require roughly 33,000 square kilometers (sq-km) of land. That’s if we spread solar panels evenly across the entire country. If we concentrate solar production in the sunniest regions, the total land footprint falls to 12,000 sq-km.
Those sound like big numbers. On the one hand they are. Massachusetts (where I reside) spans about 27,000 sq-km, for comparison.
On the other hand, the United States apparently devotes about 10,000 sq-km of land just to golf courses. And as the infographic illustrates, it’s agriculture and forestry that truly drives humanity’s footprint on the natural landscape.
In reality, no one is calling for 100 percent solar energy. Even the most bullish renewable energy advocates typically envision solar providing less than half and usually no more than a quarter of U.S. electricity. (See: “Is There An Upper Limit to Variable Renewables”)
If solar provided one-third of Americans’ electricity, it would require just 4,000-11,000 sq-km.
In other words: with an area no larger than the amount of land currently devoted to golf courses, we could power a third of the country with solar energy.