Lehpron, those numbers are a bit off.
The sun's energy hitting the earth is equivalent to about 1000 watts per square meter. However, we can't harness nearly that much.
Standard solar panels may (and this is a very generous estimate) be able to collect 200 Watts (though some may have the potential to get better performance still). On a cloudy day, this can drop below 40 Watts. Figuring on a very
generous 250 watt average per square meter, you need 4,000 square meters per megawatt, or 1,600,000 square meters to equal a typical nuclear reactor (more if there happens to be a cloud or two).
That means you need a clear sky and 400 acres of solar panels to generate 400MW.
If you figure that solar panels, bought in bulk, cost $400 per square meter (looking at some rooftop models, square meter cost was between $600 and $1000), you can expect to spend $640,000,000. $640 million for just for panels. Add the cost of all the structural supports for the panels, machinery that turns them to an optimum position, the cost of the land, etc... your easily talking a billion dollars.
And the above is an extremely generous estimate. Solar I, which operated in the 1980s, produced 10MW
and took up 100 acres. It used a different technology (directed the solar energy with mirrors to power a furnace) that was much cheaper, but it still was not financially viable.
, the largest solar plant in the world, generates 80MW
and takes up 1,000 acres... at that ratio, it would take 5,000 acres to produce the power of one nuclear plant.
Conservatively, a 400 MW
power plant would cost about $3,000 per kilowatt (according to a study done investigating the SEGS program and its applicability to Hawaii... the Hawaii SEGS would of cost 4,500 per kilowatt because of land costs.) This puts the cost of a 400 megawatt array at 1.2 billion.
In 2004, one estimate put US power demand at 709 Gigawatts. to produce 10% of that energy (70.9GW) with solar power, it would cost a staggering 212.7 billion dollars... and that assumes that the 177,250 acres needed all cost $1,000 each and have no cloud cover 300 days or more per year. And that’s 10%. For 100%, you'd need an area of land at $1,000 an acre, and sun at least 300 days a year, 10% larger than the state of Delaware (just shy of a 2,800 square mile, or 1772162 acre power plant), costing 2.127 trillion dollars.
Now we can talk about Europe
Solar power is a great idea, but it is not yet feasible. Perhaps new technology will be developed that will allow us to inexpensively gather 90% of the suns energy, instead of less than 30%, but until then, widespread solar use will remain a dream.