Turning Sahara Into a Green Land Is Possible With Wind Turbines and Solar Panels

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Researchers have been working on finding a way to turn the Sahara desert into a green land, and they even know how to make it rain.

They have explained in their study, which was published in the journal Science, that solar panels and wind turbines could impact rainfall, temperatures, and vegetation.

Wind turbines also proved to be able to double the amount of rain in that region, and solar panels can also do that, but differently. The study wants to prove that large-scale renewables could make the Sahara look green.

To prove their theory, the authors modeled a virtual Sahara desert and added renewable energy sources on an area of 9 million square km. They focused on the desert area because it was sparsely populated and also close to energy markets in the Middle East and Europe.

The calculations showed that this installation would yield over four times the energy that the whole planet uses each year.

Considering previous studies show wind and solar installation impact temperatures, this study wanted to further the investigations and focus on the impact on vegetation, explains the lead author of the study, Dr. Yan Li (University of Illinois, US):

“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.”

Dr. Li added that:

“As a result, vegetation cover fraction increases by about 20%.”

Wind Farms and Solar Panels to Make Sahara Green

Dr. Li explains that wind farms increase the way air is mixed, and when the warm air above starts to converge with the cold one, a feedback loop starts:

“The converging air has to rise, making it cool off and moisture condense, which will lead to increased rainfall.”

Solar panels will reduce the surface that reflects light and will trigger an effect called albedo, which will lead to an increase of almost 50% in precipitation, explains Dr. Li:

“The panels directly reduce the surface albedo which leads to more solar energy absorption and surface warming, which in turn strengthens the Saharan heat low, leading to more rising air and precipitation.”

The authors conclude that the effects will positively affect vegetation, livestock, and agriculture, but will it make climate change worse?

Researchers explain that the renewable energy will outweigh the local warming:

“The local warming by wind and solar farms is much smaller compared with the reduced future warming from greenhouse gases that renewable power at this scale would imply.”

Bottom line: everyone – people, animals, policymakers, investors, ecosystems will benefit solar and wind farms.