This 2005 image has been doing the rounds on Twitter today, thanks largely to it being posted by @Amazing_Maps in its cartography based feed.
It is what it says it is: a map showing the amount of land mass we’d have to cover in solar panels to produce enough energy to power the world with cheap, renewable electron-flowing stuff. And naturally enough, it drew a lot of scepticism on social media.
Yet amazingly, it does check out and is lifted from an academic paper published in Germany. The map itself is published under a Creative Commons licence, credited to Nadine May who wrote the thesis for her diploma at the Technical University of Braunshweig. The paper itself outlines the difficulties of transitioning to a renewable energy economy, but the point she’s making is clear: if we only need 254 square kilometre of panels to produce all of mankind’s energy (at 2005 efficiency levels for panels too) why aren’t we doing something about it?
The debate on Twitter following @Amazing_Maps post naturally threw up some other suggestions – including one that looks particularly well researched and says we need a lot more space than that (but not much more) by Land Art Generator, published in 2009 (below).
It’s late on a public holiday, so forgive us for not double checking the figures. Right or wrong, they’re interesting maps for debate. If you know how to disprove them off the top of your head, feel free to do so below.