An energy future dominated by renewable energy will require large areas of land to be devoted to solar and wind farms, both onshore and offshore. Some people, such as the late David MacKay, think that this poses substantial challenges. A recent article in the Financial Times also quoted an estimate that 23,000 sq km of land (almost 10% of the UK’s land area) would be needed just to provide the energy to replace oil. This article provides an estimate of land and sea areas of the UK needed to provide all the country’s energy needs, not just electricity. Much of the electricity will be directly used but large percentages will be devoted to making hydrogen, both to be used directly but also to be converted into synthetic hydrocarbons, such as aviation fuel. In my simple model we will need a total of just over 1800 Terawatt hours of extra renewable electricity. (This is approximately the same as our total requirement today). We can provide this by a mixture of onshore and offshore wind plus solar power. Each of these power sources has its own space requirement.
Carbon Commentary 23rd Aug 2020 read more »