Five gigawatts: 5,000,000,000 Watts of solar power – its a number that’s hard to fathom. Indeed, solar power’s 5GW now represents 9% of Australia’s total electricity generation capacity of 56GW. Statistics of this sort are often translated into more humanly-graspable figures by converting into the number of Australian households that could be powered by solar energy (1.25 million). Wow, pretty big figures! In fact, SunWiz recently calculated that there are over 23 million solar panels installed in Australia – a solar panel for every man woman and child.
The 5GW figure is even more impressive when related in terms of how much power humans themselves can generate. Imagine for a moment that you’re an elite cyclist and you’re cycling in the bunch (peleton) of the tour de france at 60km/h. Now an elite cyclist in this situation sustains an output of 250W of human power for a few hours, about the average power of one of today’s high-efficiency solar panels. On this basis, it would take a peleton of 20 million elite cyclists to produce the same power as Australia’s installed solar capacity. In other words, even if every able-bodied Australian simultaneously pedalled their bicycle as hard as they could, they still wouldn’t match the power output of Australia’s solar panels on a sunny day.