The researchers believe that the installation of large numbers of solar panels and wind turbines in the Sahara Desert will have a significant impact on rainfall, increased vegetation and temperatures in the region. They found that the action of wind turbines would double the amount of rainfall that would fall on the desert. Solar panels have a similar effect.
The authors of the project simulated the situation that if 9 million square meters were covered with renewable energy sources, they could completely transform the desert region. They drew attention to this area because of its sparse population, as well as the presence of a significant amount of sun and wind, the amount of which is close to the common energy market of Europe and the Middle East.
According to the authors’ calculations, the massive installation of solar and wind equipment in the desert will provide more than 4 times the energy that the world currently uses in just one year.
As already mentioned, thanks to preliminary simulations, it is believed that the settings can affect the temperature in the region, but the key point will be changes in the plant world. Namely, the amount of vegetation will increase by about 20%. In the Sahel, a semi-arid region that lies south of the Sahara, the researchers said the average rainfall increased by 1.12 mm per day after the wind farms started operating there.
How do wind turbines and panels increase precipitation?
During the operation of wind turbines, air mixing occurs due to the rotation of the blades. The turbines mix warmer air from above, which creates reverse thrust. This leads to evaporation, moisture condensation, precipitation and plant growth.
Solar panels, due to their structural features, actually reduce the reflection of sunlight from the surface, causing the so-called albedo effect in the form of feedback, greater absorption of solar energy, warming the surface with increased low heat, air and precipitation. As a result, it can already be assumed that the amount of precipitation will increase by 50%.
Impact on people
According to the authors of the project, the impact on people’s lives will be positive. Namely: it can lead to significant improvements in the agricultural sector; the growth of vegetation will make it possible to raise livestock. This, in turn, will help to solve many issues with population growth, poverty and unemployment, lack of water in the region.
How temperature rise will affect climate change
Presumably, the effects of heat from photovoltaic panels and wind turbines will not matter much. Such local warming is much less of an impact than the resulting reduction in future warming from greenhouse gases.
The installation of smaller scale plants based on renewable sources will not have a significant impact on precipitation and vegetation, that is, it will have a limited effect. These figures will depend on the specific location.
Scientists believe that it is necessary to engage in this program now, in order to help many people and the ecosystem as a whole, as well as significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change.