Solar panel statistics: How many are needed to power the world?

Discover key information on solar panels, including how many are needed to power your home, the UK, Europe and the world.

Given the rising cost of electricity in the UK many consumers may be tempted to turn to solar power, in an effort to power their home. The initial investment in solar panels can lead to savings in the long run.

Finder compiled the most relevant information on solar power in the UK, Europe and the rest of the world.

Quick overview

  • The average home in the UK would need around 9.2m² of solar panels to satisfy its yearly electricity demands, estimated at 2,900kWh.
  • The cost of solar panels to power the average home in the UK is around £2,588, the initial investment would be made up in less than 4 years by saving on electricity prices.
  • The UK would need around 980km² to satisfy its electricity needs, roughly 0.41% the total land area.
  • The world would need around 85,894km² of solar panels, roughly equal to the size of Hungary or the US state of Indiana to satisfy its yearly electricity demand.

How many solar panels do I need?

The average home in the UK would need around 9.2m² of solar panels to satisfy its yearly electricity demands, estimated at 2,900kWh. This figure was calculated using the UK average solar radiation per year, but solar panels may not be able to power the home during cloudy periods, or during the nighttime.

Are solar panels worth it?

Barring installation charges, the average home in the UK would need to spend an estimated £2,588, in order to cover its yearly electricity demand of 2,900kWh. Given the average electricity price of 34p/kWh, the initial investment would be repaid in free electricity, in less than 4 years.

Installing additional solar panels would speed up the process, since extra electricity generated is sold back to the grid at 6p–9p/kWh.

How many solar panels are needed to power the UK?

The UK would need around 980km² to satisfy its electricity needs, roughly 0.41% the total land area. Considering just 6% of the UK is currently built on it may well be possible, but it would represent a significant investment.

How many solar panels are needed to power Europe?

Most countries in Europe would be able to satisfy their electricity needs with less than 1% of their total land area being devoted to solar power.

Belgium has the highest ratio of solar panel area to total land area needed to power its electricity demand, requiring 363km² or about 1.20% of its total land area. Bulgaria would only need to cover 0.04% of its land to satisfy its electricity demands amounting to 217km².

How many solar panels are needed to power the world?

The world would need around 85,894km² of solar panels, roughly equal to the size of Hungary or the US state of Indiana, to satisfy its yearly energy demands. According to the International Energy Agency the world consumed around 22,848TWh in electricity in 2019.

Below is a list of each country on earth with the land area of solar panels and the percentage of the total land area of that country:

Country Area of solar panels in km2 Percentage of total land
China 16632.66 0.18%
United States 12981.68 0.14%
India 3611.67 0.12%
Japan 4103.94 1.13%
Russia 4102.15 0.03%
Germany 1619.68 0.46%
Canada 1862.87 0.02%
Brazil 2203.47 0.03%
South Korea 1884.40 1.93%
France 1431.96 0.26%
United Kingdom 980.47 0.41%
Saudi Arabia 1685.37 0.08%
Italy 1326.91 0.45%
Mexico 910.43 0.05%
Spain 1487.90 0.30%
Taiwan 813.52 2.25%
Iran 742.85 0.05%
Turkey 917.61 0.12%
Australia 1082.68 0.01%
Indonesia 677.86 0.04%
South Africa 705.72 0.06%
Thailand 936.70 0.18%
Egypt 992.14 0.10%
Poland 540.35 0.18%
Vietnam 552.97 0.18%
Malaysia 461.34 0.14%
Sweden 461.81 0.11%
Ukraine 421.64 0.07%
Norway 461.15 0.13%
Argentina 560.93 0.02%
United Arab Emirates 340.62 0.48%
Netherlands 348.63 1.04%
Kazakhstan 529.57 0.02%
Pakistan 501.90 0.07%
Finland 262.53 0.09%
Belgium 363.35 1.20%
Philippines 283.20 0.09%
Chile 252.33 0.03%
Venezuela 253.24 0.03%
Colombia 256.50 0.02%
Austria 242.28 0.29%
Czech Republic 225.47 0.29%
Switzerland 189.32 0.48%
Kuwait 215.82 1.21%
Greece 192.07 0.15%
Algeria 171.49 0.01%
Israel 180.68 0.83%
Bangladesh 188.08 0.14%
Romania 294.37 0.13%
Uzbekistan 300.76 0.07%
Singapore 143.74 20.02%
Portugal 173.55 0.19%
Peru 294.15 0.02%
Hong Kong 141.00 13.43%
New Zealand 121.87 0.05%
Hungary 167.23 0.18%
Iraq 112.21 0.03%
Qatar 112.06 0.98%
Denmark 131.68 0.33%
Bulgaria 217.16 0.20%
Belarus 99.04 0.05%
Serbia 126.04 0.14%
Oman 151.79 0.05%
Morocco 108.63 0.02%
Libya 109.83 0.01%
Slovakia 187.87 0.38%
Bahrain 128.20 16.33%
Ireland 91.97 0.13%
Nigeria 81.06 0.01%
Ecuador 72.04 0.03%
Azerbaijan 66.01 0.08%
Puerto Rico 77.35 0.87%
Iceland 72.57 0.07%
Jordan 56.79 0.06%
Cuba 56.22 0.05%
Croatia 52.24 0.09%
Lebanon 55.07 0.54%
Dominican Republic 73.06 0.15%
Tunisia 54.05 0.03%
Turkmenistan 73.69 0.02%
Syria 46.68 0.03%
North Korea 72.07 0.06%
Slovenia 52.98 0.26%
Tajikistan 87.03 0.06%
Sri Lanka 45.38 0.07%
Georgia 89.30 0.13%
Sudan 40.10 0.00%
Bosnia and Herzegovina 39.71 0.08%
Mozambique 36.75 0.00%
Zambia 49.54 0.01%
Paraguay 38.21 0.01%
Uruguay 32.68 0.02%
Kyrgyzstan 53.23 0.03%
Lithuania 50.20 0.08%
Guatemala 31.92 0.03%
Trinidad and Tobago 43.86 0.86%
Costa Rica 35.20 0.07%
Ghana 27.89 0.01%
Ethiopia 29.66 0.00%
Angola 41.38 0.00%
Estonia 28.30 0.07%
Panama 35.51 0.05%
Kenya 26.78 0.00%
Bolivia 29.12 0.00%
DR Congo 22.14 0.00%
Honduras 24.42 0.02%
Zimbabwe 41.02 0.01%
Latvia 23.52 0.04%
Luxembourg 21.33 0.83%
Cameroon 41.52 0.01%
El Salvador 35.86 0.17%
Mongolia 39.10 0.00%
Cambodia 26.17 0.01%
Tanzania 18.66 0.00%
Afghanistan 28.45 0.00%
Laos 17.75 0.01%
Armenia 17.28 0.06%
Albania 16.29 0.06%
Macau 17.28 52.52%
Nepal 22.46 0.02%
Moldova 13.35 0.04%
Namibia 14.18 0.00%
Brunei 14.68 0.28%
Yemen 17.41 0.00%
Botswana 15.39 0.00%
Nicaragua 11.79 0.01%
Senegal 11.88 0.01%
Papua New Guinea 9.80 0.00%
Uganda 11.34 0.01%
Mali 9.74 0.00%
Jamaica 11.05 0.10%
Montenegro 8.02 0.06%
Mauritius 10.91 0.54%
Bhutan 6.36 0.02%
Malta 7.12 2.22%
Gabon 7.50 0.00%
Suriname 11.18 0.01%
Madagascar 11.26 0.00%
Burkina Faso 6.25 0.00%
Malawi 4.10 0.00%
Togo 6.50 0.01%
Benin 3.32 0.00%
Niger 3.66 0.00%
Mauritania 4.08 0.00%
Barbados 3.51 0.82%
Republic of the Congo 3.51 0.00%
Lesotho 3.12 0.01%
Fiji 3.47 0.02%
Guyana 4.84 0.00%
Marshall Islands 2.08 1.16%
Guinea 2.65 0.00%
Rwanda 2.12 0.01%
Equatorial Guinea 1.69 0.01%
Belize 1.47 0.01%
Haiti 1.42 0.01%
South Sudan 1.21 0.00%
Liechtenstein 2.00 1.25%
Burundi 2.22 0.01%
Djibouti 1.37 0.01%
Cape Verde 1.09 0.03%
Maldives 1.07 0.36%
Eritrea 1.10 0.00%
Saint Lucia 1.38 0.23%
Seychelles 1.37 0.30%
Somalia 1.14 0.00%
Antigua and Barbuda 0.96 0.22%
Sierra Leone 1.30 0.00%
Liberia 0.85 0.00%
Gambia 1.39 0.01%
Andorra 0.71 0.15%
Chad 0.89 0.00%
Grenada 0.65 0.19%
Saint Kitts and Nevis 1.07 0.41%
Micronesia 0.95 0.14%
Central African Republic 1.09 0.00%
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 0.56 0.14%
Samoa 0.38 0.01%
Solomon Islands 0.32 0.00%
Dominica 0.34 0.04%
Vanuatu 0.20 0.00%
Sao Tome and Principe 0.18 0.02%
Tonga 0.17 0.02%
Guinea-Bissau 0.15 0.00%
Comoros 0.16 0.01%
Kiribati 0.12 0.01%
Nauru 0.07 0.34%

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.
  • For solar panel efficiency (r) and performance ratio (PR) we used the default values suggested by photovoltaic-software.com.
  • 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.

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).

Click here for more research. For all media enquiries, please contact:

Matt Mckenna
Head of UK communications
T: +44 20 8191 8806
matt.mckenna@finder.com@MichHutchison/in/matthewmckenna2

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