Wind And Solar Farms Could Bring Rain To Sahara Desert, Study Says

Posted: Sep 8 2018, 12:24am CDT | by , in Latest Science News


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Wind and Solar Farms Could Bring Rain to Sahara Desert, Study Says
Credit: Texas A&M University

The large-scale installation of solar and wind farms can bring more rainfall and promote vegetation in Sahara and its surrounding area.

Wind and solar farms have been quite successful in providing cheap renewable energy. These clean sources can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and thereby decrease the harmful effects gases cause on environment. This means that solar and wind energy can significantly change local climate. New climate-modeling suggests that solar and wind farms can also bring more rain to Sahara desert. If huge numbers of solar panels and wind turbines are installed in Sahara desert, they would increase local temperatures and boost rainfall and vegetation in the region.

“The installation of large-scale wind and solar power generation facilities in the Sahara could cause more local rainfall, particularly in the neighboring Sahel region. This effect, caused by a combination of increased surface drag and reduced albedo, could increase coverage by vegetation, creating a positive feedback that would further increase rainfall.” Authors wrote in the study.

Previous models have shown that vast wind and solar farms can have a major impact at continental scales. But the new study focuses on only Sahara Desert which sits in North Africa and covers an area of around 9 million square kilometers.

“We chose it because it is the largest desert in the world; it is sparsely inhabited; it is highly sensitive to land changes; and it is in Africa and close to Europe and the Middle East, all of which have large and growing energy demands.” Lead author Yan Li from University of Illinois said.

The model revealed that wind and solar farms can generate about 3 terawatts and 79 terawatts of electrical power, respectively. Wind turbines are powered by winds at lower altitudes. When turbines convert the kinetic energy of wind into electricity, they slightly increase temperatures by mixing layers of cold and warm air in a unique way.

"The greater nighttime warming takes place because wind turbines can enhance the vertical mixing and bring down warmer air from above.” Authors said.

Deserts like Sahara are characterized by low average rainfall. According to latest modeling, rainfall would more than double with wind turbines, especially in Sahel region that will lead to increase in vegetation cover.

Co-author of the study Safa Motesharrei from University of Maryland says. “The increase in rainfall and vegetation, combined with clean electricity as a result of solar and wind energy, could help agriculture, economic development and social well-being in the Sahara, Sahel, Middle East and other nearby regions.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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