skip to main content
OSTI.GOV title logo U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Scientific and Technical Information

Title: Impact of solar panels on global climate

Abstract

Regardless of the harmful effects of burning fossil fuels on global climate1,2, other energy sources will become more important in the future because fossil fuels could run out by the early twenty-second century3 given the present rate of consumption4. This implies that sooner or later humanity will rely heavily on renewable energy sources. Here we model the effects of an idealized large-scale application of renewable energy on global and regional climate relative to a background climate of the representative concentration pathway 2.6 scenario (RCP2.6; ref. 5). We find that solar panels alone induce regional cooling by converting incoming solar energy to electricity in comparison to the climate without solar panels. The conversion of this electricity to heat, primarily in urban areas, increases regional and global temperatures which compensate the cooling effect. However, there are consequences involved with these processes that modulate the global atmospheric circulation, resulting in changes in regional precipitation.

Authors:
ORCiD logo; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility (OLCF)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Science (SC)
OSTI Identifier:
1565456
DOE Contract Number:  
AC05-00OR22725; FC02-97ER62402
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Journal Name:
Nature Climate Change
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 6; Journal Issue: 3; Journal ID: ISSN 1758-678X
Publisher:
Nature Publishing Group
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
Environmental Sciences & Ecology; Meteorology & Atmospheric Sciences

Citation Formats

Hu, Aixue, Levis, Samuel, Meehl, Gerald A., Han, Weiqing, Washington, Warren M., Oleson, Keith W., van Ruijven, Bas J., He, Mingqiong, and Strand, Warren G. Impact of solar panels on global climate. United States: N. p., 2015. Web. doi:10.1038/nclimate2843.
Hu, Aixue, Levis, Samuel, Meehl, Gerald A., Han, Weiqing, Washington, Warren M., Oleson, Keith W., van Ruijven, Bas J., He, Mingqiong, & Strand, Warren G. Impact of solar panels on global climate. United States. doi:10.1038/nclimate2843.
Hu, Aixue, Levis, Samuel, Meehl, Gerald A., Han, Weiqing, Washington, Warren M., Oleson, Keith W., van Ruijven, Bas J., He, Mingqiong, and Strand, Warren G. Mon . "Impact of solar panels on global climate". United States. doi:10.1038/nclimate2843.
@article{osti_1565456,
title = {Impact of solar panels on global climate},
author = {Hu, Aixue and Levis, Samuel and Meehl, Gerald A. and Han, Weiqing and Washington, Warren M. and Oleson, Keith W. and van Ruijven, Bas J. and He, Mingqiong and Strand, Warren G.},
abstractNote = {Regardless of the harmful effects of burning fossil fuels on global climate1,2, other energy sources will become more important in the future because fossil fuels could run out by the early twenty-second century3 given the present rate of consumption4. This implies that sooner or later humanity will rely heavily on renewable energy sources. Here we model the effects of an idealized large-scale application of renewable energy on global and regional climate relative to a background climate of the representative concentration pathway 2.6 scenario (RCP2.6; ref. 5). We find that solar panels alone induce regional cooling by converting incoming solar energy to electricity in comparison to the climate without solar panels. The conversion of this electricity to heat, primarily in urban areas, increases regional and global temperatures which compensate the cooling effect. However, there are consequences involved with these processes that modulate the global atmospheric circulation, resulting in changes in regional precipitation.},
doi = {10.1038/nclimate2843},
journal = {Nature Climate Change},
issn = {1758-678X},
number = 3,
volume = 6,
place = {United States},
year = {2015},
month = {11}
}

Works referenced in this record:

Absorber and emitter for solar thermo-photovoltaic systems to achieve efficiency exceeding the Shockley-Queisser limit
journal, January 2009

  • Rephaeli, Eden; Fan, Shanhui
  • Optics Express, Vol. 17, Issue 17, p. 15145-15159
  • DOI: 10.1364/OE.17.015145

Design and global optimization of high-efficiency thermophotovoltaic systems
journal, January 2010

  • Bermel, Peter; Ghebrebrhan, Michael; Chan, Walker
  • Optics Express, Vol. 18, Issue S3, p. A314-A334
  • DOI: 10.1364/OE.18.00A314

A nanophotonic solar thermophotovoltaic device
journal, January 2014

  • Lenert, Andrej; Bierman, David M.; Nam, Youngsuk
  • Nature Nanotechnology, Vol. 9, Issue 2, p. 126-130
  • DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2013.286