Wind turbines in the Sahara? I bet they rethink that. All that sand would get in the gearboxes and cut the life span down to nothing.
As far as the solar panels are concerned, a sandstorm could easily bury them. Who is going to clean them off? This would be necessary as sand, unlike snow and ice, wouldn’t melt off in time.
That is the promising headline of a BBC news article. They referred to a paper in Science from the University of Illinois. Lead author Yan Li explains that they modelled what would happen if (really) huge parts of the Sahara desert are covered by renewable energy sources. They calculated that if 9 million km2 of the Sahara is covered, then precipitation would more than double and vegetation cover fraction would increase by about 20%. It has to be of that scale, fewer panels and turbines would have a limited effect.
The researchers focused on this region because it is close to large energy markets in Europe and the Middle East (weird, the journalist forget Africa as a close-by energy market) and they add that such “a massive installation in the desert would generate four times the amount of energy that the world currently uses every year”.
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