Why don’t we have solar panels all over the Sahara Desert?

Sahara desert experiences a lot of sunlight and one would expect that it will be a perfect location for solar panels.The Saharan sun is powerful enough to provide Earth with significant solar energy and a study shows that the Sahara could potentially produce more than 7,000 times the electricity requirements of Europe, with almost no carbon emissions.  That’s enough to power every country on earth.

The Sahara is a desert on the African continent with an area of 9,200,000 square kilometers. This is almost 3000 times the size of Ibadan which is famous for being the largest city in West Africa. This massive desert receives about 22 million terawatt hours of energy from the Sun every year. That’s well over 100 times more energy than humanity consumes annually! It is the largest hot desert in the world with a temperature of 58°C which is the highest in the world’s record.

Sounds perfect, right?

Since we know solar panels feed off the sun Let’s take a closer look into how a solar panel works;

A solar panel is a device that converts light into electricity.  Note the word “Light”. The sun generates “Light” and “Heat” but solar panels only requires light to generate electricity. In fact, the anti-reflective coatings and patterns on a panels’ surface are to create more opportunities for maximum absorption of incoming light particles thereby increasing the Panels’ efficiency.  Solar panels in the desert absorb far more heat than the natural sandy environment. 

So, will solar panels survive Sahara Desert? 

Yes, solar panels are built to survive harsh environmental conditions hence a solar panel will survive in the Sahara desert but it would perform poorly as the extremely high temperature of the desert would significantly drop the efficiency of the solar panel.

How can we then harness the massive energy in the Sahara desert?  Stay tuned for our next blog post where we’ll address this.


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