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Wind and solar power can green the desert

Wind and solar energy could deliver more than just renewable, low-carbon electricity: they could green the desert, increasing the Sahara’s rainfall and helping it to bloom.

A sufficiently large network of wind turbines and solar panels arrayed across the dusty wastes of North Africa could change the local climate in ways that could double rainfall, stimulate vegetation growth and set up a feedback loop that could go on increasing moisture in the world’s greatest desert region.

The array of wind turbines and solar panels so far remains hypothetical: to green the Sahara even a little, it would have to extend over 9 million square kilometres – an area bigger than Brazil.

The combined power output from this entirely imaginary infrastructure however would be enormous, at more than 80 terawatts of electrical power. Global consumption in 2017 was only 18 terawatts.

“Large-scale wind and solar farms can produce significant climate change on continental scales”

The study is an exercise in climate modelling: were investors to exploit the Sahara desert and the Sahel, what would all that hardware do to the land on which it stood? Researchers have already established that wind turbines actually do change the prevailing winds: they convert high winds to a mix of electrical energy and lower wind speeds.Similarly, light-absorbing photovoltaic cells on the ground would change the reflectivity of the surface on which they stood, and there is a demonstrable link between what climate scientists call albedo, and local climate.

What are the benefits for Sahel...? Read further from the Climate News Network

The study/ full text article published in Science you can find in our online catalogue here