Scientists Detect Shrouded Impact of Solar Panels

Published: 24 July 2016Updated: 10 July 2023

solar panel parkLet there be no doubt that Solar Panels (when they are working and people have enough of these things) are the future of our planet.

They can provide, at least theoretically, an infinite amount of energy. Energy that is clean and doesn’t require huge power plants which pollute the environment.

The biggest benefit of this green technology is that they can provide energy that would last at least as along as earth, as a planet, is alive and kicking.

Fun fact. Did you know that the amount of energy the Sun gives to Earth in a few minutes is more than what the entire earth needs in a year? Perhaps you didn’t know that but now you do, so quickly get on this bandwagon while it lasts. And it will last.

Scientists have now discovered that apart from being a source of renewable, non-polluting and limitless source of energy, Solar Panels (through which we are able to make use of solar energy) have another previously unknown effect that should have been obvious from the start.

That hidden impact is that, the area underneath these solar panels is actually cooler than the rest of the environment.

While studying the impact of solar arrays on the surroundings, environmental scientists and ecologists have published a new study which has expounded upon solar array impacts.

These scientists believe that their study will help farmers to adopt smarter practices and use the land around these sources of alternative energy in a more efficient manner.

According to the study, that was recently published in Environmental Research Letters journal, the climate of the area surrounding banks of photovoltaic panels (sometimes called the microclimate surrounding these panels) that were installed in Swindon UK, had gone through a temperature change by as much as five degrees Celsius.

Of course, that figure is likely to vary (may vary upwards or downwards) depending upon the current season but even with that caveat, it is still a massive change.

solarpanels-greenTo some that might seem like an obvious side effect of a practice that involves putting up panels and creating a, what effectively is, giant shade, scientists involved in the study have shown concerns about what this type of shade might do to plant (and soil) life that is present underneath the shade of these massive solar panel parks.

Everyone knows how important sunlight is to life and plants, expectedly, are no different.

But since most developed countries (some developing countries too) are shaping up their energy policies to encourage the use of the limitless energy from the sun even more, scientists believe that more research needs to be conducted in order to fully understand the environmental impacts these solar panels as not all of them might be useful to the surroundings.

Researchers think that it should be mandatory for the governments to have a clear picture regarding this green energy technology and its side effects.

Otherwise, they might get more than they bargained for as solar panels do more than just provide us with clean, carbon-free (or carbon-low if you look at the wider picture) energy from the land space they take up.

The research team was able to discover that the shades formed by these solar panel parks are more than just shades in the sense that they had an adverse effect on the diversity of plant species and the actual mass of the plant life (known as biomass) that were present under these shades.

If that wasn’t enough already (who wants to see a completely brown dirt ridden earth if, theoretically, humans do end up installing solar panels over every possible, and feasible, location on earth) then the worst part about the whole situation is that, because of these panels, there was a profound effect on the amount of carbon that the soil present beneath the shade, could store.

In simpler terms, if the decrease in the amount of carbon emitted (by the use of solar panels and solar technology in general) is offset by the amount of carbon that the soil is able to absorb, then the whole arrangement is working in a less than ideal situation.

Researchers who have discovered this, what can only be described as, ill effect of using solar panels without proper planning have said that the only way to reduce this side effect is to optimize the use of land space that is present beneath the panel shades.

It goes without saying that there needs to be more research done in this field to understand the effects of these shades in other climates and then correlate the data as a whole.

Some scientists believe that research in this area could lead to more efficient farming practices like growing crops that can survive and thrive under a shade in arid regions. Runoff Water could be collected from the panel themselves.

This, the scientists say, would be a much better (and greener) technique than using the solar panels in conventional power plants which are inherently dangerous.


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