Often, there is a solution to many problems, only restricted by the collective lethargy amongst the stakeholders. This is one such case. Whilst different countries have varied problems including poverty, war, hunger, etc., one problem common to most countries around the world is ENERGY. For more than a century, we have known of alternative sources of energy, they are taught in school textbooks too, yet the problem remains unresolved.
Even as recently as 3 years ago says this source, an overwhelming 87% of the world's energy requirements were met through fossil fuels, 33% through oil, 30% through coal and 24% through natural gas. After the 1973 oil crisis (less than half a century ago), the International Energy Agency was established in 1974 vide the framework of OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development). 45 years later, renewable energy through carbon-neutral techniques still constitute only 13% of the total primary energy that is produced globally, which portrays it as a statistical organization than a progressive, result-oriented one.
Although the world's energy needs have been increasing at a lower rate recently, the International Energy Agency estimates that the total energy requirement in 2040 would be about 30% higher than that today. The Total Primary Energy Supply (TPES) is the energy generated that is often expressed as Mtoe (Million Tons of Oil Equivalent) or the energy that is produced by burning a million tons of oil. 1 Mtoe = 11.63 TWh. A year equals 8,760 hours, so over a period of one year, power of one gigawatt equates to 8.76 terawatt hours of energy. Conversely, one terawatt hour (TWh) is equal to a sustained power of about 114 megawatts for a period of one year.
The year 2018 would see 14,500 Mtoe of TPES equivalent to 168,635 TWh. Presuming the energy requirements increase by 30% by 2040, this would translate into 18,850 Mtoe or 219,225 TWh. And 87% of this is presently generated through fossil fuels. Fossil fuels take millions of years (some as much as 650 million years) to get created and a few minutes to burn them. The serious environmental issues that the world faces today because of fossil fuels is well known to everyone. Burning of fossil fuels produces around 21.3 billion tonnes of CO2 of which even if natural earth processes presumably absorb 50% of the muck, resulting in a net increase of 10.65 billion tonnes of CO2 per annum, a greenhouse gas that increases radiative forcing and contributes to global warming.
Regular readers of my blog must be wondering where we are heading with all this. The brief background was a necessity before we head to the Sahara Desert. 31% of the continent of Africa is occupied by the third largest hot desert in the world - The Sahara - it is almost as large as China or the USA encompassing 9.2 million square kilometres. It spreads over Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Western Sahara, Sudan and Tunisia.
Although there are various forms of alternative energy, many of them are either restrictive or may have potentially adverse effects like nuclear energy. Solar energy is however one of the cleanest of them all. Thanks to the online tools easily available for laymen like me, it is easy to calculate that 1 million kW of energy can be generated with solar panels which have 17% efficiency (moderate) which are spread over an area of 9.412 sq.kms. Remember the global energy requirement (estimate for year 2040) is 219,225 TWh which translates into 25.026 TW per day. We need 25026 million KW per day. This will require (simple math) an area of 235,545 square kilometres.
I know this seems like a lot of math (and not being a science student, I may have made errors), but 235,545 square kilometres is approximately 2.56% of the area of the Sahara Desert. Presuming energy requirements increase by a whopping 5% each year, it will take us a 100 years to cover the entire desert, by which time, I am sure man would have found dozens of alternatives including solar panels in space.
What is required here is a huge capital investment, which can only be managed by all the major countries in the world contributing towards it and a global organization that oversees the project, like the United Nations. Plus the countries which I have mentioned above could definitely gain through leasing out the land to the richer nations - its a win-win! Now comes the kicker - by installing solar panels on a white-sand desert, the heat would now get absorbed instead of being reflected back into the atmosphere, which means one could see these deserts slowly but surely experiencing precipitation and rain and turning into lush green forests over those 100 years. Now, that is a win-win-win!
Just in case you think you may fall short, remember there is also the Gobi Desert, Patagonian Desert, Great Victoria Desert, Kalahari Desert, Syrian Desert and more....
If you have persevered to read till the very end of this message, it is quite obvious that the only way this idea can get across to the people in power and who have the ability to do something about this, is by forwarding it relentlessly to everyone you know. Unfortunately, I am not a personality that newspapers and publishers chase - yet. You would have played an important part in making people aware that there is a solution to the world's energy problems - if the powers-that-be wish to take it up and implement it.