light→ electricity

Q: “The US, in particular, could not with current technology produce enough energy through solar means to power the country to its current level even if we papered every single square inch in solar cells.”

A:

  • Sharp NT-R5E1U size / capacity: 14 sq feet, 175 watts.
  • Capacity of a square mile of NT-R5E1U's (no link, use a calculator): 350 megawatts
  • Capacity of, say, Delaware covered in NT-R5E1U's: 868 gigawatts
  • US power grid capacity: 776 gigawatts

ie., you'd need less than 1% of Texas using off-the-shelf solar cells to equal the power generating capacity of the entire US grid.

or…

Humanity uses around 1.5e13 W, and the Earth receives around 1.366e3 W per m² from the Sun (varies with year and month). Earth has a land area of around 1.5e8 km². Assuming 10% efficiency for photovoltaics, that means we need to cover around 1.1e5 km² with solar cells. That is around the land area of Cuba. – Markus Sablatnig