This special interest group is where you can bring thoughts and ideas on renewable energy. 


You need to be a member of Energy Central to access some features and content. Please or register to continue.


A way to achieve greater than 100% solar power in the U.S., without sacrificing Arizona

A way to achieve greater than 100% solar power in the U.S., without sacrificing Arizona

Elon Musk is back at his favorite projection – powering the U.S. with a 10,000 square mile solar project in the middle of the desert, but by combining projections of various research groups, we see a better way.


Everybody has that one argument, one point, one opinion, the thing that nobody is asking about, but it consumes you. It’s not unhealthy, it’s just so unrealistic that you harp on it, because if it ever did happen you’d get to say “I told you so,” and there’s absolutely no phrase more satisfying.

For this writer, it’s allowing NFL players to participate in Olympic Rugby, so that the U.S. could dominate for gold every four years, for Elon Musk, it’s converting 100 square miles of the Arizona desert into a solar project with enough capacity to power the country. It’s an old argument of Musk’s, but one he brings up frequently.

It’s also an argument that, as ludicrous as it sounds and logistically flawed as it is, is technically possible – the best kind of possible. Musk’s supermassive solar project would require a patch of land measuring 10,000 square miles, with an accompanying battery in the one square mile ballpark.

Assuming the use of 24% efficient modules across the entire project, researchers at University College London found that even under conservative figures (100×100 kilometers instead of miles), projection would feasibly work. 10,000 square kilometers, multiplied by 0.24 GW per square kilometer, multiplied by 0.21 comes out to around 500 gigawatts. By comparison, the country’s annual electricity consumption rate was 425 gigawatts as of 2013, when this test was conducted.


We all believe in Santa Clause, Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.  I have a bridge in Brooklyn, anyone interested?


Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Dec 13, 2019 5:52 pm GMT

Note: size of Pima County in AZ 

9,189 sq mi

23,800 sq km


Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Dec 13, 2019 10:13 pm GMT

I would think most of the discussions about this "only XX square miles of solar" would be needed isn't actually saying we should find a patch of land that large and build it out, but more recognizing that the land isn't that vast, right? Because rather than have all that generation in one place it'd be better of course to have it spread out and generating closer to where it'd be actually needed and not increase the T&D losses

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Dec 14, 2019 1:09 am GMT

but more recognizing that the land isn't that vast, right?

exactly... one AZ county

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Dec 14, 2019 1:39 am GMT

Tell you what Noam - I have several hundred thousand shares of stock in Solar City, would you consider a trade for that bridge of yours?

Get Published - Build a Following

The Energy Central Power Industry Network is based on one core idea - power industry professionals helping each other and advancing the industry by sharing and learning from each other.

If you have an experience or insight to share or have learned something from a conference or seminar, your peers and colleagues on Energy Central want to hear about it. It's also easy to share a link to an article you've liked or an industry resource that you think would be helpful.

                 Learn more about posting on Energy Central »