The hydroelectric facilities of Canada, the USA, and Mexico generate about
660 TWh per year. Shared between 500 million people, that amounts to
3.6 kWh/d per person. Could the hydroelectric output of North America
be doubled? If so, hydro would provide 7.2 kWh/d per person.
The total so far is 42 + 4.8 + 8 + 7.2 = 62 kWh/d per person. Not enough
for even a European existence! I could discuss various other options such
as the sustainable burning of Canadian forests in power stations. But
rather than prolong the agony, let’s go immediately for a technology that
adds up: concentrating solar power.
Figure 30.3 shows the area within North America that would provide
everyone there (500 million people) with an average power of 250 kWh/d.
North America’s non-solar renewables aren’t enough for North America
to live on. But when we include a massive expansion of solar power,
there’s enough. So North America needs solar in its own deserts, or nuclear
power, or both.
How can 6 billion people obtain the power for a European standard of
living – 80 kWh per day per person, say?
The exceptional spots in the world with strong steady winds are the central
states of the USA (Kansas, Oklahoma); Saskatchewan, Canada; the southern
extremities of Argentina and Chile; northeast Australia; northeast and
northwest China; northwest Sudan; southwest South Africa; Somalia; Iran;
and Afghanistan. And everywhere offshore except for a tropical strip 60
degrees wide centred on the equator.
For our global estimate, let’s go with the numbers from Greenpeace
and the European Wind Energy Association: “the total available wind re-
sources worldwide are estimated at 53 000 TWh per year.” That’s 24 kWh/d
Worldwide, hydroelectricity currently contributes about 1.4 kWh/d per