Tempe, Arizona gets 211 sunny days every year. Arizona is 113,990 sq mi. The sun emits 12.2 trillion watt-hours per square mile per year of solar energy. So, the total solar energy possibly gained in Arizona is 1,390,678 trillion watt-hours, which is roughly equivalent to 1, 390 terawatt-hours. World energy consumption in 2008 was 19,000 Terawatt-hours.
Essentially, Arizona alone, if completely covered in solar/PV panels could supply 7% of world energy demand. This may not sound significant, but now let’s look at the percentage of world land area that is covered by Arizona: As stated earlier, Arizona is 113,990 sq mi. Since the world is 57,308,738 Sq. miles, the area of Arizona is only 0.1% of world area. The fact that such a small area could produce 7% of energy supply is quite a feat! Of course, covering the state in a grid of solar panels is quite unrealistic. Nevertheless the potential is there.
The landscape of Arizona would be markedly different if its entirety was cloaked in solar panels. This is where the architect and engineer come in. The built environment could have power systems built in! Especially in Arizona, where sun is plentiful, solar panels can encapsulate curtain wall systems or roof treatments, et cetera. In this way, the system that feeds into the grid is not a separate entity, but becomes an intrinsic and unique architectural element that both is hidden by and exemplifies the architecture that it is apart.
What if this potential of the sun could be harnessed in the façades and roofs of buildings? If solar technology could be harnessed in areas of the world where it is most effective, what effect would that have on the power grid? What effect would that have on city form? How could this new incorporated grid change the job of the city planner?
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.