How to power every country with just solar panels | interactive map

How to power every country with just solar panels

Is it possible to power the entire world with just solar energy? We estimated the area of solar panels each country would need to fulfil its energy needs.

Is it possible to power the entire world with just solar energy? We estimated the area of solar panels each of 147 countries would need to fulfil its energy needs (see full methodology below). There are two factors at play here: the amount of sun that country gets, and the amount of energy it uses.

It turns out that for most countries, the required area is a (probably) doable amount. 87% of the countries could power themselves using less than 5% of their land. The US falls into this category, requiring just 1.4% of its country to be covered in solar panels. According to the Economic Research Centre, only 3% of the US is built upon – this may well be possible.

Only three places included in the analysis need more solar panels than they have land: Singapore (830%), Hong Kong (213%) and Bahrain (156%). This makes sense as they are very small and dense states.

In total, we’d need over 400,000 square miles of solar panels to power the whole Earth, less than the area of South Africa. While, of course, we can’t replace South Africa with solar panels, spreading this area out across the world does seem like something we could achieve in the future.

Feeling inspired to help the world switch to solar? Find out what options there are to finance your solar panels and what you might expect to pay in our guide.

The full list of countries

CountrySolar panel area (square miles)% of country
Afghanistan1810.1%
Albania580.6%
Algeria1,1620.1%
Andorra10.3%
Angola1850.0%
Argentina2,8490.3%
Armenia970.9%
Australia2,4210.1%
Austria9773.1%
Azerbaijan6492.0%
Bahrain463156.3%
Bangladesh1,0852.2%
Belarus1,4051.8%
Belgium2,40920.6%
Benin540.1%
Bhutan120.1%
Bosnia and Herzegovina1080.6%
Botswana310.0%
Brunei Darussalam1085.3%
Bulgaria3240.8%
Burkina Faso230.0%
Burundi40.0%
Cambodia540.1%
Cameroon770.0%
Canada9,2700.3%
Cape Verde80.4%
Central African Republic40.0%
Chad40.0%
Chile7880.3%
China41,0041.1%
Comoros10.2%
Republic of the Congo850.1%
Democratic Republic of the Congo500.0%
Cote DIvoire1160.1%
Croatia2821.3%
Cyprus581.6%
Czech Republic9113.1%
Denmark6183.8%
Djibouti80.1%
Egypt2,4710.6%
Eritrea40.0%
Estonia1270.8%
Ethiopia770.0%
Fiji230.3%
Finland9460.8%
France5,0662.4%
Gabon500.1%
Gambia40.1%
Georgia1350.5%
Germany33,38224.8%
Ghana1240.1%
Greece6141.2%
Guinea190.0%
Guinea-Bissau40.0%
Hong Kong861212.5%
Hungary8612.5%
Iceland1390.4%
India8,7760.8%
Indonesia3,3780.5%
Iran6,8031.1%
Iraq1,1810.7%
Ireland6182.3%
Israel5877.0%
Italy4,2283.7%
Japan11,2638.0%
Jordan2860.8%
Kazakhstan9030.1%
Kenya1040.0%
North Korea540.1%
South Korea7,38619.6%
Kuwait1,19717.4%
Kyrgyzstan890.1%
Laos120.0%
Latvia1780.7%
Lebanon2055.2%
Lesotho80.1%
Liberia80.0%
Libya4250.1%
Liechtenstein11.9%
Lithuania2391.0%
Luxembourg17817.9%
Macedonia620.6%
Madagascar190.0%
Malawi120.0%
Malaysia2,0661.6%
Maldives1210.1%
Mali120.0%
Malta5040.8%
Mauritania190.0%
Mauritius313.9%
Mexico10,7681.4%
Moldova1391.1%
Mongolia540.0%
Morocco3980.2%
Mozambique970.0%
Myanmar2360.1%
Namibia310.0%
Netherlands3,75328.9%
New Caledonia230.3%
New Zealand5870.6%
Niger150.0%
Nigeria8960.3%
Norway1,6331.2%
Oman8300.7%
Pakistan1,6910.6%
Palestinian Territory190.9%
Philippines6800.6%
Poland2,5292.1%
Portugal5751.6%
Qatar1,18526.5%
Romania8531.0%
Russia23,5440.4%
Rwanda80.1%
Sao Tome and Principe10.3%
Saudi Arabia5,5640.7%
Senegal580.1%
Sierra Leone80.0%
Singapore2,274830.2%
Slovakia4712.5%
Slovenia1582.0%
Somalia80.0%
South Africa1,2780.3%
Spain3,0661.6%
Sri Lanka1580.7%
Sudan1200.0%
Swaziland80.1%
Sweden1,2080.8%
Switzerland6414.2%
Syria3010.4%
Taiwan2,64918.9%
Tajikistan620.1%
Tanzania1000.0%
Thailand4,1782.1%
Togo150.1%
Trinidad and Tobago91546.2%
Tunisia3130.5%
Turkey3,6371.2%
Turkmenistan1,7451.0%
Uganda350.0%
Ukraine2,0810.9%
UAE3,85311.9%
UK11,46312.3%
US49,9581.4%
Uzbekistan4250.3%
Vietnam1,1120.9%
Yemen1580.1%
Zimbabwe460.0%

Methodology

The area of solar panels required was calculated from equation


E = A * r * H * PR

from photovoltaic-software.com.

  • For energy (E), we summed the countries’ electricity, natural gas and refined petroleum products consumption according to the CIA World Factbook.
  • For solar panel efficiency (r) and performance ratio (PR) we used the values suggested by photovoltaic-software.com – 15% and 0.75 respectively.
  • For Annual average solar radiation (H), we averaged the total yearly values given for each country in OpenSolarDB.
  • Countries for which either the World Factbook or OpenSolarDB didn’t have data were left out of the analysis.

Since we didn’t have data for every country, the total area needed to power the world was estimated by finding the average area needed for a country, and multiplying it by the total number of countries (195).

Note that each country was enlarged to fit the box above the world map. While the squares on each map are to scale with the country itself, they aren’t to scale between countries, since all the countries vary a lot in size.