The days are getting shorter and the festive season is upon us. With the environmental and monetary cost of fuel steering many people towards electric vehicles, we at Project Solar naturally had the thought “What if Santa needed to lower his carbon footprint?”
The only real way we could think of to answer this question was to crunch the numbers and do the maths to see how much energy Santa would really need to travel across the globe in one night. Assuming there are 2 billion children (ages 0-14) located around the world and they’ve all been good this year, Santa will have his work cut out for him.
For the purpose of this article, we’ll be assuming an average of 2.5 children per household, meaning there are 800,000,000 homes that Saint Nick will have to visit – that’s going to take some doing even with magic reindeer!
How much pollution would Santa cause?
In this section, we’ll be treating Santa’s sleigh as a 4×4 car that can carry his presents across the globe. So how far will he need to travel on Christmas to make sure the children of the world get their presents?
The surface area of the Earth is approximately 1014 m2, but as we all know it’s mainly water (70% water in fact). To make things simple, we’ll assume that all the houses on Earth are an equal distance apart, meaning that the 800 million homes Santa needs to visit are around 200 meters apart. This would make Santa’s present delivery route 160km long! That’s as far as a trip from Earth to the surface of the Sun (with a few kilometres left over for a quick holiday to the moon).
In his large 4×4 capable of carrying presents for the children of the world, Santa would rack up an impressive 34,950.40 metric tons of CO2 emissions. To put that into perspective, the average person will emit 4.69 tons of CO2 per year. This means that Santa would add emissions equivalent to that of 7,452 people in just a matter of hours!
Now at Project Solar, we’re nothing if not realistic, so we know it’s silly to say that Santa would cause these emissions. Everyone knows that he doesn’t use conventional fuels to travel and that his sleigh is powered by magical reindeer. But let’s for a minute consider that his reindeer are reaching retirement and need replacing. How would the children of the world get their presents delivered?
What would he drive?
Starting with the obvious, Santa’s new environmentally friendly sleigh would almost certainly be electrically powered. Of the modern road-safe electric vehicles, the most efficient operate at an efficiency of 5 miles per kWh (which is just over 8km per kWh). This would mean in order to travel around the world dropping off presents, Santa would have to store 19,883,872 kWh of electricity to power his sleigh.
With all the technology in Lapland powering the elves’ workshop, we’re sure they could whip up an equivalent sleigh for Santa which would be capable of carrying presents around the world.
Powering the electric sleigh
Now whilst electric vehicles are more friendly for the environment compared to traditional fossil fuels, we believe that Santa would want to reduce his emissions as much as possible. The best way to do this would be to generate his own electricity using solar power.
A 4kW rated system installed by Project Solar has achieved 3000kW of power generation over the course of a year in the UK. If we were to use that figure to work out an estimate of how many kW the system produces every hour, we’d reach a figure of 1.95.
Now as the amount of power you can generate with solar panels relates to how much sunlight they will receive. When you compare the average sunlight hours of the UK to Lapland, there are approximately 18 hours more sunlight in Lapland. This is good news for us as we’ll need all the energy we can get to propel Santa across the Christmas night sky.
So for Santa to power his Christmas journey entirely using solar energy, he’d need to install 6,555 4kW systems around his workshop. That would also leave some extra energy to power the headlight needed to replace Rudolph’s nose in case of foggy weather conditions. Don’t believe us?
If we replaced Rudolph’s nose with a 12W-rated LED foglight it would only need 0.408 kWh of energy to be turned on for the entirety of Santa’s delivery route.
Renewable power in real numbers
Unless you deal with electricity and renewables on a daily basis the figures above might not hold too much weight. That’s why we’ve managed to contextualise the numbers using the energy required for some of the UK’s biggest stadia to run a football game.
We did some research to find out how much electricity is needed to run a football game in certain stadiums, based on how many people they can seat. Using this information, we calculated the total energy required for a year. Then, we figured out how many years Santa’s electric sleigh could power the stadium using the same amount of energy he uses to fly and deliver presents on Christmas night.
If you want some perspective, the energy needed to send Santa around the globe could power Old Trafford for almost 40 years (and that’s the biggest club stadium in the country!).
Thinking of asking for solar panels for Christmas? Santa Claus might not be able to deliver them but Project Solar certainly can, contact us today to find out more.