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Gigantic solar farms may impact how much solar power can be generated elsewhere

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Gigantic solar farms may impact how much solar power can be generated elsewhere


Gigantic solar farms may impact how much solar power can be generated elsewhere

by Zhengyao Lu and Jingchao Long

Lund, Sweden (The Conversation) Jan 16, 2024






The Sun’s energy is effectively limitless. While resources such as coal or gas are finite, if you are able to capture and use solar power it doesn’t prevent anyone else from also using as much sunshine as they need.

Except that isn’t quite the full story. Beyond a certain size, solar farms become large enough to affect the weather around them and ultimately the climate as a whole. In our new research we have looked at the effect such climate-altering solar farms might have on solar power production elsewhere in the world.



We know that solar power is affected by weather conditions and output varies through the days and seasons. Clouds, rain, snow and fog can all block sunlight from reaching solar panels. On a cloudy day, output can drop by 75%, while their efficiency also decreases at high temperatures.



In the long term, climate change could affect the cloud cover of certain regions and how much solar power they can generate. Northern Europe is likely to see a solar decrease for instance, while there should be a slight increase of available solar radiation in the rest of Europe, the US east coast and northern China.



If we were ever to build truly giant solar farms, spanning whole countries and continents, they may have a similar impact. In our recent study, we used a computer program to model the Earth system and simulate how hypothetical enormous solar farms covering 20% of the Sahara would affect solar power generation around the world.



A photovoltaic (PV) solar panel is dark-coloured and so absorbs much more heat than reflective desert sand. Although a fraction of the energy is converted to electricity, much of it still heats up the panel. And when you have millions of these panels grouped together, the whole area warms up. If those solar panels were in the Sahara, our simulations show this new heat source would rearrange global climate patterns, shifting rainfall away from the tropics and leading to the desert becoming greener again, much as it was just 5,000 or so years ago.



This would in turn affect patterns of cloud cover and how much solar energy could be generated around the world. Regions that would become cloudier and less able to generate solar power include the Middle East, southern Europe, India, eastern China, Australia, and the US south-west. Areas that would generate more solar include Central and South America, the Caribbean, central and eastern US, Scandinavia and South Africa.



Something similar happened when we simulated the effects of huge solar farms in other hotspots in Central Asia, Australia, south-western US and north-western China – each led to climate changes elsewhere. For instance, huge solar farms covering much of the Australian outback would make it sunnier in South Africa, but cloudier in the UK, particularly during summer.



There are some caveats. Things would only shift by a few per cent at most – however much solar power we build Scandinavia will still be cool and cloudy, Australia still hot and sunny.



And in any case, these effects are based on hypothetical scenarios. Our Sahara scenario was based on covering 20% of the entire desert in PV solar farms, for instance, and though there have been ambitious proposals, anything on that scale is unlikely to happen in the near future. If the covered area is reduced to a more plausible (though still unlikely) 5% of the Sahara, the global effects become mostly negligible.



Why this thought experiment matters

But in a future world in which almost every region invests in more solar projects and becomes more reliant on them, the interplay of solar energy resources can potentially shape the energy landscape, creating a complex web of dependencies, rivalries and opportunities. Geopolitical manoeuvring of solar project construction by certain nations may hold significant new power influencing solar generation potential far across their national boundaries.



That’s why it is essential to foster collaboration among nations to ensure that the benefits of solar energy are shared equitably around the world. By sharing knowledge and working together on the spatial planning of future large-scale solar projects, nations should develop and implement fair and sustainable energy solutions and avoid any unintended risks to solar power production far away.


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2 solar projects to supply power for 5 military installations

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2 solar projects to supply power for 5 military installations


2 solar projects to supply power for 5 military installations

by Mike Heuer

Washington DC (UPI) Jun 18, 2024






The Department of Defense is partnering with Duke Energy to provide solar power for five military bases in North and South Carolina.

The DOD announced the power partnership with Duke Energy in which all power produced by two new Duke Energy solar energy facilities in South Carolina will power the five military bases.

The military bases are the Army’s Fort Liberty, the Marine Corps’ Camp Lejeune and Cherry Point Air Station bases, and the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina.

The Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina also will obtain power from the two Duke Energy solar power plants that are under construction and expected to be operational by September 2026.

“By supporting the construction of new clean, renewable energy, we are enhancing our resilience in support of the warfighter and DOD’s mission,” Brendan Owens, the DOD’s chief sustainability officer, said in a news release Tuesday.

Owens said the two Duke Energy solar arrays will “deliver power exclusively to [the] DOD over the agreement’s 15-year term and contribute to a more reliable and resilient commercial electric grid.”

The DOD agreed to pay $248 million over 15 years to obtain an estimated 4.8 million megawatt hours of carbon-free solar energy from Duke Energy.

The federal government is the nation’s largest user of energy, and President Joe Biden in 2021 ordered federal agencies to achieve 100% carbon-free electricity usage by 2030.

Biden’s executive order requires government officials to ” support the growth of America’s clean energy industry … in ways that are good for taxpayers and communities,” said Andrew Mayock, chief sustainability officer at the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Duke Energy recently undertook its Green Source Advantage program to provide renewable energy for the five military bases.

“As our large business customers plan for the future, they also have increasingly specific goals around decarbonization,” Duke Energy Vice-President Meghan Dewey said.

Dewey said those goal “require access to renewable energy sources that can support those needs.”

DOD officials agree.

“This project is a great opportunity to assist our military departments and our warfighters in their decarbonization goals,” Air Force Col. Jennifer Neris said.

The Army’s Assistant Secretary for Installation, Energy and Environment Rachel Jacobson said the Duke Energy partnership is “essential for delivering energy resilience for the Army.”

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Argentina starts removing solar panels from Chilean border

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Argentina starts removing solar panels from Chilean border


Argentina starts removing solar panels from Chilean border

by AFP Staff Writers

Santiago (AFP) June 17, 2024






Argentina on Monday began removing solar panels that were installed by accident on the wrong side of its shared border with Chile, after a complaint from Chilean President Gabriel Boric.

In late April, the Argentine Navy inaugurated a maritime surveillance post on the border with Chile, in the Patagonia region of South America.

But the solar panels, which provide energy to that military unit, were set up on the Chilean side of the frontier.

In a statement, the Argentine Navy acknowledged the mistake and said it had “transferred personnel and means to begin the removal of a solar panel installed in the territory of the sister republic of Chile, north of the Island of Tierra del Fuego.”

Earlier in the day, Boric demanded that the panels be removed or Chile itself would do it.

“Borders are not something that can be ambiguous. It is a basic principle of respect between countries and therefore they must remove those solar panels as soon as possible or we are going to do it,” Boric told reporters during a visit to Paris.

Chile and Argentina share a border of about 5,000 kilometers (more than 3,000 miles).

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Chinese Premier Li targets clean energy in Australia visit

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Chinese Premier Li targets clean energy in Australia visit


Chinese Premier Li targets clean energy in Australia visit

by AFP Staff Writers

Sydney (AFP) June 18, 2024






Premier Li Qiang toured a Chinese-controlled lithium refiner in Perth on Tuesday, a sign of his country’s vast appetite for Australian “critical minerals” required for clean energy technologies.

Li ended his four-day visit to Australia with a tour of the low-carbon energy industry in resource-rich Western Australia.

His first stop was Tianqi Lithium Energy Australia, a 51-percent Chinese-owned venture comprising a mine for hard rock lithium ore, and a lithium refinery.

Along with at least a dozen other officials, China’s second most powerful man donned a white helmet during a rainy visit to the facility south of Perth.

The Chinese premier will also view a private research facility for clean energy-produced “green hydrogen” — touted as a fuel of the future to power heavy-duty items such as trucks and blast furnaces.

Australia extracts 52 percent of the world’s lithium, the vast majority of it exported as an ore to China for eventual refining and use in batteries, notably in China’s world-dominant electric vehicle industry.

But despite being a huge Australian customer, China’s involvement in the country’s critical mineral industry is sensitive because of its dominance of global supply chains.

Australia has only recently begun refining lithium rather than exporting the ore.

And the government has announced a strategic plan to develop new supply chains with friendly countries for critical minerals such as lithium, nickel and so-called rare earths.

Earlier this year, the government ordered five China-linked shareholders to sell off a combined 10 percent stake in Northern Minerals, a producer of the rare earth dysprosium.

Such foreign ownership was against Australia’s “national interests”, Treasurer Jim Chalmers said.

About 99 percent of the world’s dysprosium — used in high-performance magnets — is currently produced in China.

China has invested in critical minerals in Latin America, Africa and Australia over the past 10-20 years, said Marina Zhang, associate professor at the University of Technology Sydney’s Australia-China Relations Institute.

Developing supply chains independent of China is “fine and dandy” but unlikely to be achieved even in the short to medium term, she said.

“We are facing a very time-pressing issue that is fighting against climate change — so that issue should be at the centre of the discourse,” Zhang said.

“But unfortunately the Western allies are taking the approach that China’s dominance across the supply chains of critical minerals is imposing national security threats,” she said.

China’s narrative, however, was that it was investing and making a contribution to sustainability and environmental protection, the analyst said.

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