The origin of Solar Dividends

My new book “Solar Dividends” actually has an origin story. It goes like this. While writing my previous book “Power Shift”, which is about how we can transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, I was trying to figure out how much renewable energy we would need. That is, if we managed to transition 100% to solar and wind, how much would we actually need to install to run a modern civilization? I wanted to show that it was not such a ridiculous number that it would be impossible to accomplish.

I had to take into account population growth, improvements in energy efficiency, delivering energy services to all people, and the intermittent nature of solar and wind.  I calculated that for the solar PV component of such a future energy system, we would need to install 100 terawatts of panels, that is, 100 trillion watts. Such a huge number is hard to relate to, so I looked at how much that would be per person, to put it on a human scale. By 2070 our population is expected to be 10 billion, so dividing 100 trillion by 10 billion, I got 10,000 watts per person. So I concluded that if we installed 10 kilowatts of PV for each person on the planet, we would have enough energy to run a modern world economy, including all industry, commerce and transportation.

That’s when the lightbulb over my head lit up: why not just give everyone a 10 kilowatt PV system? Nah, that’s crazy, I thought.  But the idea stuck in my head, and I spent the next four years working out exactly how we could do that, and the result is my new book “Solar Dividends”.

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