Scientists from the University of California-Davis, Lancaster University, and Ludong University in China published research showing that utility-scale solar facilities can have a cooling effect not only on the land covered by the array, but also in the surrounding area.
Solar facilities were found to produce “cool islands” that extend up to 700 meters from the boundaries of the arrays. Land surface temperature was reduced by up to 2.3 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) at 100 meters away; the cooling effects tapered off exponentially to 700 meters.
Studies of two solar parks–the 300 MW Stateline project in California and the 850 MW Longyangxia project in China–were conducted using Landsat satellite images, an approach the researchers said had not previously been applied to solar. The study team compared land surface temperatures around solar facilities before and after they were built. The Stateline solar park measurements were supplemented with ground-collected data.
The researchers hypothesized that the cooling was caused by a combination of shading and insulating the land surface, and by the direct conversion of energy into electricity by the solar panels.