Wind, solar farms could bring rains to Sahara Desert

Wind, solar farms could bring rains to Sahara Desert

Paolo D'Odorico, Professor of Ecohydrology at the University of California, Berkeley, who was not involved in the study.

"Our model results show that large-scale solar and wind farms in the Sahara would more than double the precipitation, especially in the Sahel, where the magnitude of rainfall increase is between 20mm and 500mm per year", said Dr Yan Li, the lead author of the paper from the University of Illinois, US.

Large-scale wind and solar farms in the Sahara could provide enough energy to replace the fossil fuel energy used now and in the foreseeable future.

These effects can change the climate, and since climate change is that renewable energy has the goal of avoiding, there is a need to understand the implications.

Solar farms had a similar positive effect on temperature and precipitation, the team found.

"But the lack of vegetation feedbacks could make the modelled climate impacts very different from their actual behaviour", Li said. Their findings were published today in Science.

But this study is the first to incorporate how vegetation would change as a result, said lead author Yan Li, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of IL.

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"As a result, vegetation cover fraction increases by about 20%". Eugenia Kalnay, a excellent atmospheric scientist at the University of Maryland, has been this belief for a decade. While the desert is clearly wide open and a good source of solar energy, Ars Technica noted that the climate in the region is quite sensitive to "nudges", or small changes to the atmosphere that could bring about drastic changes in the weather.

This would be "large enough to have major ecological, environmental, and societal impacts", said the report. The increase in rainfall led to an increase in vegetation cover, which provided a positive feedback loop on the precipitation.

Meanwhile, dark-colored solar panels reduce the amount of surface light that is reflected from the Earth, slightly raising temperatures and also triggering more precipitation. The Sahel region saw the largest increases in average rainfall - 1.12 millimeters per day where wind farms were present. "Our results support this conclusion".

Large-scale renewable energy projects are already being implemented in parts of North Africa and the Middle East. Saudi Arabia, for example, announced investments in solar energy in the amount of $200 billion. Kalmay talks of novel high-capacity transmission lines delivering power to Europe and the rest of Africa. Based on the results generated by the climate model, the Sahara's temperature could increase by about 2 degrees Celsius as a result of the wind farms.

Researchers also pointed out that any hikes in temperature from solar and wind farms would be limited in geographic area and scope, unlike fossil fuel emissions which continually build in the atmosphere and raise warming over time.

"The greater nighttime warming takes place because wind turbines can enhance the vertical mixing and bring down warmer air from above", researchers said. "This looks like a win-win to me." he said.

"The rainfall increase is a effect of complex land-atmosphere interactions that occur because solar panels and wind turbines create rougher and darker land surfaces", says study co-author Eugenia Kalnay from the University of Maryland.

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