Do countries have the land resources to power themselves with renewable energy?

Good op-ed by David MacKay, Cambridge University

After two disappointing op-eds in the New York Times, one denouncing Enhanced Geothermal Systems, and one recently by Lynch attacking the notion of peak oil, this is one that somewhat restores my faith in the op-ed selection process at the NYT. David MacKay (Professor, Cambridge University) is someone who likes to put things in perspective: a refreshing trait in the often so polarized energy debate. In this particular op-ed he discusses land requirements for renewables to supply a typical country’s energy needs. A few things I like to add to this. David ignores the fact that land may be used for multi-purposes, for example wind farms can also be traditional farms as is often the case – cows don’t mind roaming around large turbines. He also uses rather low numbers for solar energy density. And the analysis is simplified assuming each country wants to be fully energy independent. In reality of course, a country that has a high solar energy density and can therefore produce solar energy more cheaply and more abundantly, will likely offer to sell it to countries that do not have such a resource. In other words, a market will be created that optimizes in some sense land use also. These numbers should therefore be seen as a very conservative scenario.

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