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What If We Covered the Sahara With Giant Solar Farm ?

Whenever I visit the Sahara I am struck by how sunny and hot it is and how clear the sky can be. Aside from a few oases there is little vegetation, and most of the world’s largest desert is covered with rocks, sand and sand dunes.he Saharan sun is powerful enough to provide Earth with significant solar energy.

Global horizontal irradiation, a measure of how much solar power received per year. (Global Solar Atlas/World Bank)

Each square metre receives, on average, between 2,000 and 3,000 kilowatt hours of solar energy per year, according to NASA estimates.

Given the Sahara covers about 9m km^2, that means the total energy available – that is, if every inch of the desert soaked up every drop of the sun’s energy – is more than 22 billion gigawatt hours (GWh) a year.

This is again a big number that requires some context: it means that a hypothetical solar farm that covered the entire desert would produce 2,000 times more energy than even the largest power stations in the world, which generate barely 100,000 GWh a year.

In fact, its output would be equivalent to more than 36 billion barrels of oil per day – that’s around five barrels per person per day. In this scenario, the Sahara could potentially produce more than 7,000 times the electricity requirements of Europe, with almost no carbon emissions.

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