Produce enough electricity to power all of BC today by covering Coldstream and Vernon in solar

solar woodshedIt’s now becoming reasonably common knowledge that the price of solar electricity has been dropping dramatically in recent years (in the order of 50% in the US since 2009 according to a recent report by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory).  If only the same thing could be said of electricity bills!

Couple this with the massive potential for solar power (did you know that more power hits the earth in an hour than all humanity uses in an entire year?), the outlook for solar power is good, even in areas that have historically had relatively lower cost electricity.

When I heard Elon Musk declare recently that you could power the whole US by covering a corner of Utah and Nevada in solar, as tweeted by Nature New’s reporter Lauren Morello below, it got me thinking:  How much area would we need to just power BC?

Based on some back of the napkin calculations, I calculated we would need in the order of 165 km2 to cover our province’s electricity demand for today, which happens to be roughly the same area covered by Vernon and Coldstream!  While this may at first blush still seem like a lot, it’s actually less than 0.02% of BC’s total land mass.

While this is perhaps a little overly ambitious(!), on this first day of summer 2016, we should give pause and think about how solar power could contribute more to BC’s energy mix going forward.

Happy Summer Solstice!


For those that want to check that back-of-napkin math, here it is:

Stats Can shows that BC in June 2015 produced 4,946,926 megawatt hours (and assuming that we mostly used all of that generated electricity), that would be, on average 165,000 megawatt hours or  165 million kilowatt hours (kWh) per day in June.  Some demo panels I have up in Vernon, BC are producing about 11 kWh/day for 7 panels, covering just over 11 square meters, so let’s say we get about 1kWh per square meter in Vernon in June  (you can see the live data for this demo on my website here).  That would mean we would need about 165 million m2 of space or 165 km2 which is very close to the area covered by the twin cities of Vernon (about 95 km2) and Coldstream (about 67 km2).


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