And here’s something unexpected. Imagine implementing some people’s energy fantasies, blanketed deserts with solar and wind farms. It makes sense to put solar panels in the desert, and while playing such mental games, install wind, too. Researchers did that for the Sahara and were surprised to find that rainfall projections rose 150% above normal. Temperatures increased 2.7C, which isn’t much of a surprise considering that solar panels absorb rather than reflect sunlight to extract its energy. The additional surprise was that the wind farms actually accounted for the largest changes. Both types of farms slow the wind by roughening the surface of the ground. Slower wind over hotter land rises. That rise causes condensation and precipitation. Solar plus wind farms could bring rain to the desert. Reality, however intervenes. Oddly, the effect is not universal. Evidently, similar analyses suggest smaller effects over other deserts. Also, the power farms were designed to be very large to help to discern the effects, and were far larger than our civilization currently needs. The implication, however, is that some solutions may have unintended and positive effects, an amplification that we need to curtail and recover from global warming.
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