This article explores solar farms as a climate change solution. It is based on Project Drawdown, which was a 2017 initiative that mapped the top 100 most effective solutions to reverse global warming.
Solar power making its second appearance inside the Drawdown top 20 shows why this technology is so important to reversing global warming. This time it is solar farms which come out as being more effective than rooftop solar.
The authors begin with the following powerful statement:
“Any scenario for reversing global warming includes a massive ramp-up of solar power by mid-century.”
The authors debunk any myths that surround emissions from solar with the following statement:
“When their entire life cycle is taken into account, solar farms curtail 94 percent of the carbon emissions that coal plants emit and completely eliminate emissions of sulfur and nitrous oxides, mercury, and particulates.”
Let’s look into the numbers that allowed solar farms to be ranked as the 8th most effective solution to reverse global warming. Solar farms could reduce CO2 emissions by 36.9 gigatons, for a net cost of -$80.6 billion, but produce $5.02 trillion in net savings. I thought it was interesting that the figure for solar farms was 12.3 gigatons of CO2 higher than the rooftop solar figure.
The authors point towards the scaling up of solar farms with the statement that: “these utility scale installations account for 65 per cent of additions to solar PV capacity around the world.”
Furthermore, the authors also add that: “informed predictions about the cost and growth of solar PV indicate that it will soon become the least expensive energy in the world. It is already the fastest growing.”
Of the comparison to rooftop solar, the authors had the following to say:
“Compared to rooftop solar, solar farms enjoy lower installation costs per watt, and their efficacy in translating sunlight into electricity (known as efficiency rating) is higher.”
Of the future, the authors highlight that: “energy storage and more flexible, intelligent grids that can manage the variability of production from PV farms will also be integral to solar’s success.” This makes it clear how important it is to situate solar technology within the overall electricity system and not see it as an isolated solution.
What you need to know
This article looked at solar farms as a climate change solution. It was based on the 2017 analysis of Project Drawdown.
This is clearly a powerful technology with the potential to prevent massive amounts of carbon from being released into the atmosphere.
What is clear is that governments need to create better incentives for solar farms to thrive. However, removing artificial subsidies which prop up fossil fuels would be a great start. A level playing field would be more than enough for solar to make a real difference.
Businesses should look to get involved in this transition where possible and purchase electricity from green tariffs where this is not.
Thank you for reading,
By Barnaby Nash
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