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Solar parks can cool the surrounding land

Solar parks could reduce land surface temperature by up to 2.3C according to a study published by the journal Renewable and Sustainable Energy Transition.

As more countries pledge to achieve net-zero carbon emissions there will be a greater reliance on renewable energy sources. 

However, there is little evidence on the impact that large scale renewable sites have on the land. 

To address this gap, a team of scientists looked at two large-scale solar parks located in arid locations in the U.S and China. 

They used land surface temperature data derived from satellite images to compare the temperatures around solar parks before and after the parks were constructed. 

landscape photography of blue solar panels

They found that the parks produced ‘cool islands’ extending around 700 metres from the solar park boundaries. 

The temperature of the surrounding land surface was reduced by up to 2.3 ℃ at 100 metres away from the solar park.

This new discovery is important as it shows the solar park could impact ecological processes, including productivity, decomposition, and ultimately the carbon balance, in the surrounding landscape. The scale of effect will depend on the location and could be positive, negative or inconsequential.

The new findings, therefore, highlight the need for greater consideration to be given to where solar parks are built around the world, as well as their design, to minimise any negative impacts and boost positive effects.

Dr Alona Armstrong, the co-lead author from Lancaster University, said: ‘Most studies examine the impacts of land-use change for solar parks inside the site boundaries. Here, we found a temperature effect that is evident up to around 700 metres away, suggesting that ecological processes may also be impacted.

‘This heightens the importance of understanding the implications of renewable energy technologies on the hosting landscape – we need to ensure that the energy transition does not cause undue damage to ecological systems and ideally has net positive consequences on the places where we build them.’

Photo by Antonio Garcia

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