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Large solar and wind farms in the Sahara will increase heat, rain and vegetation

Wind and solar farms are known to have local effects on heat, humidity and other factors within the regions in which they are situated. A new climate-modeling study finds that a massive wind and solar installation in the Sahara Desert and neighboring Sahel would increase local temperature, precipitation and vegetation.


The study, conducted by a team of researchers from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and reported in the journal Science, is among the first to model the climate effects of wind and solar installations while taking into account how vegetation responds to changes in heat and precipitation. The model revealed that wind farms caused regional warming of near-surface air temperature, with greater changes in minimum temperatures than maximum temperatures.


The wind and solar farms would cover more than 9 million square kilometers and generate, on average, about 3 terawatts and 79 terawatts of electrical power, respectively. The rainfall increase is a consequence of complex land-atmosphere interactions that occur because solar panels and wind turbines create rougher and darker land surfaces.