Wind and Solar Power Could Make the Sahara Desert a Livable Environment

Scientists are beginning to see the potential for solar power to bring increased rain and vegetation to the environment of the Sahara Desert, making it livable.


So, the question that remains, “How does this work?” It is also important to make the decision as to whether or not it is time to move forward with real-life action on this part. 

We are seeing certain negative results worldwide that fossil fuels have on global warming. In those cases, it is clear that movement toward power and renewable could reduce CO2 production and possibly help some of the negative effects we see increasing so quickly over time. This would improve the environment and work to provide space for so many of those who are crammed into third-world countries in Africa. 

What Research of Renewable Energy in the Sahara Desert Shows Innovation 

Scientists have researched the insertion of large number of solar panels and wind turbines throughout the Sahara Desert. Basic numbers include doubled rainfall overall. This is based upon roughly nine million square kilometers of the desert covered by these panels and turbines combined. This would increase the available energy in the area by over four times more than annual global usage, making the livability even more likely. 

While temperatures are definitely shown to improve, increased rainfall and vegetation would affect one another as the environment improves with time. Estimations in published scientific research show increased vegetation cover of the land by roughly 20%. 

Although Exciting, How Does It Work? 

Basically, wind turbines mix air with rotating blades. Warm air is mixed from above, creating a feedback that provides evaporation and precipitation. Plant growth then occurs. Researchers state that wind farms also increase rough surfaces which also makes the wind converge into low-pressure areas. In the end this creates more rainfall. 

Solar panels are not the same, but they still cause improvement. They reduce solar reflection from the desert surface, otherwise known as albedo effect. With the solar panels it becomes a positive response that increased precipitation of about 50%. By reducing surface albedo more solar energy is absorbed along with surface warming. Strengthened Sahara heat low created rising air and precipitation as well.  

It is great to see that wind turbines and solar panels would work together to make the Sahara Desert livable for the first time in about 4,500 years. Adding this amount of livable space to our planet could have an incredibly positive impact on humanity. 

Predicted Climate Changes: Sahara and Surrounding Areas 

The scientists evaluated the maximum levels of solar and wind energy that could be generated in the Sahara Desert as well as the smaller region to the south, The Sahel. These were chosen because they have a large area providing potential for massive renewable installation and would be able to provide incredible energy demand for other regions. With other limited needs in the area, there is also a broad amount of solar energy and wind available. Dr. Li and associates state that The Sahel could benefit from solar and wind power as well, with much needed increase in water generation for cities and agriculture. 

Large changes in the area could include temperature increases of about 2[Symbol]C from these massive wind farms, very similar to global warming concerns, while solar panels would only cause a change of about 1degree. Precipitation would also increase about 0.25mm daily, almost two times the previous amounts, along with another 0.13mm daily from solar. 

Is it Truly Time to Proceed with this Action? 

Arguments exist back and forth on the answer to this question. While some of the lead scientists say that it is time to move forward, others believe that jumping in with this complete change may not be as beneficial as anticipated. Potential worldwide benefits are exciting, but it is also important to remember that the research is based on hypothetical calculations and actual studies are only very small so far. 

Others argue that while positive environmental effects are predicted, people need to be considered as well and more finite proof needs to be drawn before action is taken. They say this is why fossil fuels have not yet been deleted from available energy sources. Many questions still need answered. While only a few people live in the Sahara, it is still their home and livelihood and complete overtaking of their land for solar and wind farms cause potential negative effects. It would be quite like stealing their land. 

Others present the argument that policies and regulations need to be put into place before this practice is launched. Apparently large amounts of cheap, renewable energy sound like a positive for people all over the world, its existence as a secure investment is not yet proven. From the minimal amounts of solar energy and other renewables that have been developed in individual nations to this point, it is likely that more in-depth research needs to be done on the long-term effects. One of these effects is potential desertification all around the region, especially if land management remains poor after the excitement of the initial positive results. The predictions are, in fact, only regional and have not been evaluated around the globe in the long run. 




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