EGU23-10553, updated on 26 Feb 2023
EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Comparing the effects of large scale solar farms on climate and regional surface energy budget in different climate models

Arya Samanta1, Moritz Adam1,2, Mathias M. May3, and Kira Rehfeld1
Arya Samanta et al.
  • 1Geo- and Environmental Research Center, Department of Geosciences, Eberhard Karl University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany (
  • 2Institute of Environmental Physics, Heidelberg University, Heidelberg, Germany
  • 3Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany

Solar panels of utility scale are a rapidly growing contribution to the renewable energy supply with increasing efficiency and steeply reducing costs of photovoltaics (PV). Although there is consensus on long term reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and advantages of avoided emissions by using PV systems, there is need to understand the climatic effects of land surface modifications of such systems.

We first review studies focusing on effects of utility-scale solar farms and compare their results in accordance to their characterization of a photovoltaic and the type of model used to evaluate effects. Then, we perform simulations of larger than current utility-scale solar farms but also comparatively small localized farms which are both characterized by modified land surface properties. These regions are either identified on the basis of solar insolation and desert-like criteria (low precipitation) or are proposed in existing studies for potential deployment of solar farms. The solar farm deployments are characterized by static or gradual changes in respective boundary conditions of albedo, soil roughness and outgoing longwave thermal properties. Separate experiments are conducted with non-dynamic and dynamic vegetation components to investigate potential feedbacks originating from the interplay of vegetation and precipitation. To this end, we use a comprehensive model (MPI-ESM-LR; Mauritsen et al., 2019), and the Earth System Model of Intermediate Complexity PlaSim (Fraedrich et al., 2005) to understand, and cross-validate, the effects in two models of different complexity model.

We examine the results considering changes in radiative forces and surface energy budget and, therefore, the surface temperatures which can likely lead to atmospheric circulation patterns, precipitation and vegetation feedbacks. If lower complexity models provide results in an acceptable ballpark of comprehensive ESMs, then they could be further used for future quick compute simulations with various deployment scenarios and experimentation with variable technical aspects. Spatially explicit deployment of PV with focus on parameterized thermal properties dependent on the simulated climate would also allows us to look at the complementary effect of climate on panels and could help constrain the effect of different pathways on PV technology in the future.

How to cite: Samanta, A., Adam, M., May, M. M., and Rehfeld, K.: Comparing the effects of large scale solar farms on climate and regional surface energy budget in different climate models, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-10553,, 2023.