Giant wind and solar farms could restore vegetation in the Sahara desert

What would happen if the Sahara Desert was transformed into a giant solar and wind farm? According to researchers at the University of Illinois and the University of Maryland, the world’s largest desert would become rainier and, thanks to growing vegetation, could turn green for the first time in at least 4,500 years. What’s more, the farms would provide four times more electricity than current global demand.

A new climate modeling study shows that massive wind and solar installations in the Sahara and the neighboring Sahel would increase local temperature and precipitation and, by extension, vegetation. Scientists say these effects would likely benefit the entire region.

Wind and solar farms are known to have local effects on heat, humidity and other factors, ktore can be beneficial, but also detrimental to the regionow, in ktories. Research published on „Science”, are among the first toore model the climate effects of wind and solar installations, while also taking into account how theob vegetation responds to changes in temperature and precipitationow.

– Previous modeling has shown that large-scale wind and solar farms can cause significant climate change on a continental scale. However, their omission of information on vegetation can make the modeled climate impacts very rothat is different from their actual behavior – said Yan Li of the University of Illinois, a coorouter of publications.

Li acknowledged that he and researchers at the University of Maryland focused on the Sahara for several reasonsow. – We chose the Sahara because it is the largest desert in the world, is sparsely inhabited and is relatively close to Europe and the Middle East, and these regions have large and growing energy needs – explained Li.

The farms simulated in the study would cover more than 9 millionoin kilometerow square. This is an area almost 30 times larger than Poland. According to the study, they would generate an average of about 3 terawatts – wind farms – and 79 terawattsow – solar farms – electricity. – In 2017, global energy demand was only 18 terawattsow, so this is obviously much more energy than is currently needed worldwide,” said Li.

According to the model, the wind farms would cause a regional warming of air temperatures near the surface by up to 2 st. C., detailedoln the night. Nights would become warmer, due to the movement of the turbines, ktore would increase vertical air mixing and bring in warmer air from the gory down. This has been observed in field studies and using remote sensing. It has been shown roAlso, they increase the humidity of the air.

Solar panels, on the other hand, mean that more solar radiation is absorbed and less solar energy is reflected back into space. This results in the heating of the earth’s surface. However, this effect could rotion depending on the por year.

Map by Eviatar Bach CC BY 4.0

The model also predicts an increase in precipitationoin an average of 0.25 millimeters per day in regions with wind farm installations. That may not be much, but it still represents twice as much as today. In the case of solar farms, the increase in precipitationoIn the model, the resultingofaint 0.13 millimeters per day.

– Such an increase in precipitationow leads in turn to an increase in vegetation cover, creating a positive feedback loop – explained Li.

Unlike wind farms, solar panels had little effect on wind speed in study. – We have discovered that large-scale wind and solar farm installations can bring more falloutoin and promote the growth of vegetation in these regions,” said Eugenia Kalnay of the University of Maryland.

– Increasing precipitationoin and vegetation combined with clean electricity from solar and wind farms can helpoc agriculture, economic development and social well-being in the Sahara, Sahel, Middle East and other nearby regions – confirmed Safa Motesharrei of the University of Maryland.

Switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy is an important and necessary step toward preventing climate change. In our ecological efforts, however, we must be mindful of other consequences, zaroBoth intentional and unintentional – in how theob massive deployment of source energy technologyorenewable energy can influence the surrounding climate.

The researchers in the study, however, did not even give an estimate of the cost of theoin such huge installations. True, it’s a sparsely populated area, but still, someone lives there. On top of that, these areas may have cultural or religious significance. Gigantic amounts of cheap Saharan energy sound like a big deal, but it’s questionable whether it would be a safe enough investment, especially since these regions are not peaceful.

SourceoSource: University of Illinois, The Conversation, CC BY-SA 2.5/ Luca Galuzzi/ Wikimedia Commons