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The Solar Resource

I’ll start this blog with my favorite solar factoid: the huge solar resource. I live in Binghamton, New York. While not the sunniest place in the USA, it is still gets 20% more solar energy than the sunniest place in Germany. Why do I bring up Germany? Because they are the world leader in the deployment of solar power.

It’s time for us to really understand just how blessed we are by energy from our home star, the sun. Scientists have been measuring the solar resource for decades. Dr. Richard Perez, right here in New York, is one of the world authorities on the solar resource. He published this graphic of the solar resource compared to others.

solar resource

A “TWy” is a Terrawatt-year and 1 terrawatt-year = 8.76 TRILLION kilowatt-hours (kWh). The kilowatt-hour is a more familiar unit because this is what you are being charged for on you electric bill.

Thus, the amount of solar energy falling on the land area of Erath each year is 201,480 TRILLION kilowatt-hours.

This is 1437 times the world’s yearly energy use!

The things we dig up out of the ground are finite and this chart shows the estimated amount of these. Yes, there are new discoveries of oil and gas reserves, but think about this for a minute. The amount of solar energy falling on the land area of Earth comes every year. The finite sources will never amount to anything close to the yearly solar resource. Oil, gas and coal are “paleo-solar-resources”, having been plants and animals at one time, they used solar energy to grow and live. Then they died and were compressed into these “fossil fuels”. And why would an intelligent race go to all the trouble to dig this stuff up, when we are receiving this huge amount of fresh solar energy all the time? I am sure this behavior is comical to any ETs who might be passing by Our Fair Planet.

Bringing this closer to home, let us look at the amount of solar energy for some US cities. This data was collected over a 30 year period by the National Renewable Energy Lab. Think about that: 30 years worth of data! There are very few things we have that much data on! Thirty years worth of data does not lie! The least sunny place in the continental US is Seattle with 1350 kWh per square meter per year (1 square meter = 10.76 square feet, the size of a smallish kitchen table). The sunniest place is Phoenix, Arizona, with 2336 kWh/sq.m/year. Here is Endicott, NY, we get 1496 /sq.m/year. Now, you remember the world leader in use of solar power, Germany? The sunniest place in Germany receives 1250 /sq.m/year. Wow, this is embarrassing… So you see, we are blessed with plenty of solar energy, even in up-state NY. This idea that there is “not enough sun” is not only wrong, it is wrong by orders of magnitude! Wake up to the sunshine, folks!