Elon Musk is known as a high-rolling risk-taker. The just-announced Tesla Model 3 is proof—he’s basically betting his company’s future on its success.

Tesla 3

  • Tesla Motors

But there’s one bet Musk placed in 2006 that he considers to be risk-free: His investment in the future of solar energy, via the auspices of SolarCity, the energy company founded by brothers Lyndon and Peter Rive. SolarCity’s stated mission—as noted on their entertaining blog—is “to accelerate the mass adoption of clean energy.”

According to Musk, it’s been clear for some time that the future of American transportation is in electric vehicles. What’s been less certain has been their power source. Our current dependence on what he calls “uncontrollable externalities”—that is, international oil supplies the U.S. doesn’t control—leaves us never-endingly insecure, entangled politically and militarily, and it’s a temporary solution anyway considering there’s just a finite amount of fossil fuel.

Musk views the sun as the obvious solution, being the ultimate sustainable resource (for at least a couple of billion years anyway). He considers the earth to solar-powered already via direct warmth from the sun and through light-based natural processes like photosynthesis.

Anyway, we humans really need only a tiny bit of sunshine to run our things, according to the entrepreneur, requiring the allocation of about this much of the U.S. to solar farms in order to keep everything running.

How much room solar panels need in the US

To power the whole human race, we’d need a bit more, but it’s doable. And Musk has faith in the power of innovation to get us there.

 

  • Headline image by Jeff Cooper