It would take only around 0.3 per cent of the world’s land area to supply all of our electricity needs from solar power. The area of roof space available in Australia is enough to provide all of the nation’s electricity, using solar panels. Weight for weight, advanced silicon based solar cells generate the same amount of electricity over their lifetime as nuclear fuel rods, without the hazardous waste. All the components in a solar panel can be recycled, whereas nuclear waste remains a threat for thousands of years. Solar and wind power systems have 100 times better lifetime energy yield than either nuclear or fossil energy system per tonne of mined materials The amount of energy that goes into creating solar panels is paid back through clean electricity production within anywhere from 1 – 2 years, depending on where they are used. This compares with a serviceable life of decades. The theoretical limit for silicon based solar cells is 29% conversion efficiency: it can convert 29% of the sun’s rays to electricity. In Feb 2018 the Institute for Solar Energy Research Hamelin and the Leibniz Universität Hannover in Germany claimed to have achieved an efficiency of 26.1%. The Earth receives more energy from the sun in an hour than is used in the entire world in one year Every day 120,000 terawatts of power from the Sun flows through to the Earth – 10,000 times more that flows through our industrial civilisation at any given time. There are now some 1.8 million home solar power systems installed in Australia. At the end of 2017 there were 3.5 million rooftop solar panels. Wind is a form of solar power, created by the uneven heating of the Earth’s surface which causes air pressure differences. In 2017 total installations of wind turbines were 52,573 MW, bringing the global total to 539,581 MW. To put that in perspective, Victoria’s two Loy Yang coal-fired power stations produce a total of 3,250 MW. Solar radiation and related energy resources including wind and wave power, hydro and biomass make up 99.97% of the available renewable energy on Earth The first solar cell was constructed by Charles Fritts in the 1880s – it had a conversion efficiency of just 1%. The most efficient commercially available solar panels on the market today have efficiency ratings as high as 22.5%, whereas the majority of panels range from 14% to 16% efficiency rating. In March 2018 GE Renewable Energy laid out plans to develop what it says will be the world’s largest and most powerful offshore wind turbine, the Haliade-X. A single turbine will stand 260 meters tall and have a capacity of 12 MW as well as 107-meter-long blades. Manufacturing solar cells produces 90% less pollutants than conventional fossil fuel technologies. Global annual photovoltaic installations increased from just 21 MW in 1985, to around 165 GW in 2017. Contrary to popular belief, solar panels can still work in cloudy conditions, although output is compromised. Silicon, the major component of a solar cell, is the second most abundant element in the Earth’s crust (about 28% by mass) after oxygen. A 5kW solar panel system is large enough to produce the electricity requirements of an average 4 person Australian household. By 2017, about 16 per cent of Australian households used rooftop solar panels Wind and solar power statistics, facts and trivia The reality of renewable.