Interest in new and renewable energy such as solar power generation and wind power generation is increasing in order to reduce climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions. What would happen if we covered the entire Sahara desert with solar panels?
The Sahara Desert is the world’s largest desert, boasting an area as large as China, and is characterized by high temperatures and long sunshine hours. If you look at the distribution of solar hours across the globe, you can see that there are areas with long sunshine hours in North America, South America, and southern Africa, but there are wide areas of long sunshine hours around the Sahara Desert. The sunniest areas of the Sahara Desert receive more than 4,000 hours of sunlight per year. In the Sahara Desert, there is almost no rain and clear days with not a single cloud continue.
For this reason, the Sahara Desert can be said to be a suitable place to build a solar power plant by laying solar panels. An example of a large-scale solar power plant is a solar power plant located in Ouarzazate, Morocco. This solar power plant can generate electricity during the day as well as at night using solar heat from a power plant classified as a concentrating solar power plant. When all facilities, including those under construction, are operational, it can supply electricity to one million households.
When constructing a solar power plant in the Sahara Desert, it is possible to generate enough power to supply all of Germany just by installing a solar panel in the front in a very small area. Expanding the range of installing solar panels on the front can supply electricity to the entire Europe.
The area required to power the world is comparable to that of New Mexico. Although 25 million people live in the Sahara, the low population density makes building solar power plants not a big deal. In fact, the DESERTEC initiative to build a large-scale power plant in the Sahara Desert was even established by a European company. However, the construction of solar power plants in the Sahara Desert has not yet been realized.
One of the reasons why it is difficult to build a solar power plant in the Sahara Desert is transportation difficulties. If you look at the main road in the Sahara Desert, only a part of the vast desert has roads. When constructing a photovoltaic power plant, it is necessary to move not only many solar cell panels but also many related materials to the construction site, but it is difficult to transport materials in the Sahara Desert, where roads are not maintained.
It will also require 51.4 billion solar panels to power the world, costing $51 trillion. If transportation and cost problems are solved and solar panels are installed in front of the entire Sahara, 1.3 million terawatts of electricity can be supplied annually. Since the total energy consumed by mankind in 2019 is 173,000 terawatts, it is calculated that if solar panels are installed in front of the entire Sahara, it is possible to 7 times more than the total energy consumed by mankind.
However, if a large solar power plant is built, the temperature difference between the ground and the air will increase and an updraft will occur. The resulting updrafts develop clouds and bring rain to the Sahara. This would allow the entire Sahara Desert to be greened.
Recording sounds like a good effect, but in reality it is not. Sand blown from the Sahara Desert reaches the world, including Europe and South America, and is affecting the ecosystem.
However, Sahara desert greening is possible if solar panels are installed in the entire Sahara desert, and it is pointed out that it is realistic enough to spread solar panels in the same area as New Mexico.