The Photovoltaic Heat Island Effect: Larger solar power plants increase local temperatures
AuthorBarron-Gafford, Greg A.
Minor, Rebecca L.
Allen, Nathan A.
Cronin, Alex D.
Brooks, Adria E.
Pavao-Zuckerman, Mitchell A.
AffiliationUniv Arizona, Sch Geog & Dev
Univ Arizona, Coll Sci, Off Res & Dev, Biosphere 2
Univ Arizona, Dept Phys
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherNATURE PUBLISHING GROUP
CitationThe Photovoltaic Heat Island Effect: Larger solar power plants increase local temperatures 2016, 6:35070 Scientific Reports
Rights© The Author(s) 2016. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Collection InformationThis item from the UA Faculty Publications collection is made available by the University of Arizona with support from the University of Arizona Libraries. If you have questions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AbstractWhile photovoltaic (PV) renewable energy production has surged, concerns remain about whether or not PV power plants induce a "heat island" (PVHI) effect, much like the increase in ambient temperatures relative to wildlands generates an Urban Heat Island effect in cities. Transitions to PV plants alter the way that incoming energy is reflected back to the atmosphere or absorbed, stored, and reradiated because PV plants change the albedo, vegetation, and structure of the terrain. Prior work on the PVHI has been mostly theoretical or based upon simulated models. Furthermore, past empirical work has been limited in scope to a single biome. Because there are still large uncertainties surrounding the potential for a PHVI effect, we examined the PVHI empirically with experiments that spanned three biomes. We found temperatures over a PV plant were regularly 3-4 degrees C warmer than wildlands at night, which is in direct contrast to other studies based on models that suggested that PV systems should decrease ambient temperatures. Deducing the underlying cause and scale of the PVHI effect and identifying mitigation strategies are key in supporting decision-making regarding PV development, particularly in semiarid landscapes, which are among the most likely for large-scale PV installations.
VersionFinal published version
SponsorsUniversity of Arizona Institute of the Environment; Office of Research & Development through the TRIF