Following is an interesting and fundamental perspective on the abundance of
solar energy from Professor Helmut Burkhardt of Ryerson
For an overview forecast of economic and practical potential of renewables,
including solar, to meet our long term energy needs, see
Walter Short's Seattle presentation recorded in IEEE Power Engineering
Review, April 2001, Page 12.
Secretary and Acting Chair
IEEE WG on Implementing Technology to Limit Climate Change
Thank you for the information. You have created a most interesting IEEE
group . I would like to get a message to groups like yours.
Scientifically, humankind has no energy problem. The sun delivers to
the surface of the earth 25 000 kW for each one of the planets 6 billion
citizens, 0.24 kw/m2 on a yearly global average on a horizontal surface.
The global average total energy use rate is presently 2.3 kW per person.
A decent European life style can be sustained with 5 kW for each human
being. This means, we have to harvest only 0.02% of the sunlight to satisfy
energy needs forever.
With technically reasonable efficiency, and solar cogeneration we need a
collector surface of 30 m2 /person to have all the energy needs,
including transportation hydrogen, industry and home electricity and heat.
comparison, sustainable agriculture requires 2000 m2 of fertile land to
grow the food for one person. Everybody should know this scientific
feasibility of solar energy; it is a simple back of the envelope calculation
A solar world energy system is also technically feasible, and economic
feasibility is already achieved in some situations, and close in general
if we consider the environmental and social cost of other options.
However, few realize that we have this abundance of power delivered to our
doorsteps. We are stuck in the idea of needing fossil fuels or nuclear
lack of awareness of the huge potential of solar energy is obvious in US
President Bush's reaction to the California electricity shortage: --
Drill for more oil.
Helmut (Ken) Burkhardt
Adjunct Professor of Physics
Ryerson Polytechnic University
Toronto ON Canada M5B 2K3