Covering the biggest sand desert with solar panels: 173 TWh and the biggest mistake in human history – ECOticias

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As you have seen other times, solar panels are gaining a lot of ground, especially in the context of the energy transition we are going through. Covering the Sahara with this type of ‘tools’ to obtain energy from the sun seems like a good option for some, but is it really? If what we told you about microscopic solar panels caught your attention, this information will not leave you indifferent.

The world’s largest deserts, such as the Sahara, Gobi, Arabian or Kalahari, are seen as important places to place solar panels. They have plenty of space to place them and could be the ‘cradle’ of great energy satisfactions. The supply of sunlight from the deserts is incredibly abundant, but doing this action is a serious mistake and we are going to tell you the reason why.

As with every human action, the installation of a large number of solar cells in the desert has its consequences. Those in favor of this practice only see the positive aspects, but there are several negative aspects that must also be considered. According to German physicist Gerhard Knies, in just six hours, deserts around the world obtain more solar energy than is consumed by humans in a year: 173,000 terawatts.

Putting solar panels in the Sahara is not as ideal as it sounds

It should also be noted that these are areas with little rainfall, a large, relatively flat, unobstructed area with little or no cloud cover, wildlife and a limited human population. These characteristics lead one to believe that it is the ‘perfect place’ to install solar farms.

It is seen as an oasis of clean, sustainable energy source that could meet the world’s energy demand. However, transforming the Sahara into a solar farm would end up having adverse effects on the global climate.

It is true that solar panels installed in the Sahara would boost renewable energy, but they would also harm the global climate. The black surfaces of these devices absorb most of the incoming sunlight, but only about 15% of that energy is converted into electricity. The remaining content is returned to the environment in the form of heat.

Installing solar panels in the Sahara would be counterproductive

By encouraging these solar power plants, the user would contribute to climate change by providing an extra (and extreme) dose of heat, since deserts cover large areas and the re-emitted heat would be distributed by the air flow. In this way, the solar energy that the panels could not convert would return to the environment in the form of heat, impacting the global climate.

Since the solar panels are darker than sand, they absorb and therefore release much more heat than the sand in the Sahara. This is because sand is much more reflective than panels. It is worth noting that sand has between 15 and 45% albedo. Albedo is the measure of the portion of solar energy reflected by the ground.

This returned heat would create a strong difference between the Sahara and the surrounding oceans. This would form a vicious circle of noticeable temperature increase. Manipulating our planet’s climate patterns, even if the goal is laudable, can have highly destructive consequences.

The devastating consequences of transforming the Sahara into a solar farm would be seen even if only 20% of its surface area were modified. Moreover, even if the catastrophic effects of solar panels in the desert were mitigated, we would have to deal with the complex logistics of storing and transporting all that energy produced in such remote areas.

In short, covering the Sahara with solar panels would have serious repercussions on the climate. Although it seemed an ambitious and feasible plan, for now we will have to ‘make do’ with more realistic projects, such as the vertical solar panel that multiplies electricity by 7.

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