Despite the abundant sunshine provided by deserts, a recent study has found that a farmland can provide a lot more benefits to PV power stations than desert regions. Like excessive humidity, a desert’s excessive heat may dampen the overall conversion rates of PV modules.
The deserts of Africa and the Middle East have traditionally been touted as the best places for establishing PV power stations. This is not only because of the plentiful sunshine of the desert regions. According to the scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a PV power and wind power facility can potentially boost a desert’s overall rainfall levels by altering the sunshine reflective rates of the desert’s ground and airflow movements.
Despite its advantages, the benefits of building a PV power station in deserts have been challenged by a number of other studies; in August of this year, a research team at Oregon State University installed solar panels at 17 sites with different topographic conditions and measured their respective temperatures, wind velocity and direction, and sunshine intensity.
The team discovered that farmlands are the more optimal sites for building PV power facilities than the desert regions. According to its findings, the conversion of just 1% of the world’s farmlands to PV power stations will be sufficient to meet its entire power needs. In light of its findings, the team has proposed to establish PV power stations in the farmlands of the western regions of America, the southern regions of Africa, and the Middle East; the farmlands of each of these regions are known to have abundant sunshine, proper wind and temperature conditions, and low humidity.
According to the study, the activities of farming and PV power stations can both co-exist. For instance, both the Kuai island of Hawaii and Sun Raised Farms have been known to combine PV power generation with various types of animal breeding practices.
In some cases, a PV power station can also be used with pollinizers, which can be planted beneath the elevated solar panels of a farmland. The Environmental Science Division of Argonne National Laboratory (EVS, ANL) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) of the U.S., for example, have jointly rolled out the “pollinator-friendly solar power” program, which calls for the plantation of honey plants at PV power stations. The aim of the program is to establish an ecological system for pollinating insects and helping neighboring farms to increase their yields.