Wil Sillen's post

By: Jacqueline van den Ende Carbon Equity
A question I asked myself this week as I was driving through the arid plains of Morocco: why have we not yet covered this barren terrain with solar panels just yet? ๐Ÿค”
The idea of course is not original: ๐Ÿ‘ฉ๐Ÿปโ€๐Ÿ”ฌ scientists have long calculated that if we were to cover just 1.2% of the Sahara with solar panels we could generate all of the worldโ€™s energy demand โ˜€๏ธ (Source: Forbes). So my question was: why have we not done this yet? Yalla, letโ€™s go with the goat (as we say in Dutch)โ€ฆ It turns out unfortunately howeverโ€ฆthat plastering the Sahara with solar panels could actually accelerate global warming ๐Ÿ˜•. Waitโ€ฆbut why? Here is what I found: Solar panels could boil the Saharaโ€ฆsay what? Sand is white and typically reflects heat back into the atmosphere. Solar panels are black. Apparently only 15% of the solar energy is converted into electricity. The rest is absorbed as heat. At scale this could change the global climate (for the worse to be clear). Solar panels could make rain ๐ŸŒง๏ธ ๐Ÿ˜ฎ โ€ฆThe ground below solar panels would overheat. During the cooler hours of the day this heat could create condensation against the solar panels and the moisture would evaporate into the atmosphere and create clouds. The clouds would produce more rain. Turning the Sahara into a green oasisโ€ฆSounds desirable so far. But โ€ฆ. because solar panels absorb more heat and the desert reflects less sunlight with vegetation covering 20% of the Sahara with solar panels would raise temperatures in the desert by 1.5C and 0.16C globally. 50% would result in 0.39C global warming. This could lead to increasing sea loss in the Arctic. But drying up and starving the Amazon ๐Ÿ˜ง โ€ฆ The heating of the Sahara would disrupt global air and ocean circulation causing drought in the Amazon region, thus affecting tropical rainforests. Changes in wind direction could furthermore disrupt the flow of nutrient rich Saharan Sand to the Amazon, which would further put rainforests at risk. ๐Ÿค• Ouch, who knewโ€ฆ. What is not clear to me from my research - is whether covering 1.2% of the Sahara with solar panels would have similar material climate effects. โ“ Any scientific input here? Still then you have the issue of storing and efficiently transporting the energy to the rest of the world, global dependence on a huge concentrated energy source and the cost of installation and especially maintenance (desert dust - or is this taken care of because of the rain? ๐Ÿค”)..and likely another few handfulls of challenges. It is likely better to create smaller scale solar plants distributed across countries closed to the actual energy demand. But still ... could you not power very specific energy or heat intensive processes in industrial desert zones? If you have insights or ideas I would be delighted to be further illuminated on the sense and nonsense of this idea ๐Ÿ™ #energytransition #climatechange #solarpv Image credit: Jeff Barry Learn more:
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