By Fauzi Ameen 40008357, 28th - March, 2018
Concordia University Mech 351 - Alternative Energy Project
The industry today is constantly moving away from fossil fuels and closer to renewable energy that uses sophisticated and advanced technologies to fulfill the increasing demands of an increasing population. In this project, our main focus is to provide an efficient and simple solution to boost energy generation for the United states of africa, while improving the environmental climate by inducing rain as a byproduct.
Combined Wind and Solar farms is the way to go green
One of the most convenient ways to utilize the large northern region that the Saharan desert occupies in africa, is to create landscapes of solar panels and wind turbines. Besides, this has the advantage of introducing climate and environmental changes make the sahara green again as a side effect (1), which we will discuss later in depth. Solar is predicted to become the most used and largest contributor to the world’s source of electricity by 2050. Additionally, newly innovated solar panels have the potential of reach relative high efficiencies between 30-36% (3). On the other hand, wind in the Sahara can reach incredible speed that can be taking advantage of. Advanced wind turbines can reach an efficiency of 36% (2) while maintain a very low cost. Our solar and wind farms must be exceptionally sturdy against the harsh climates of the sahara such as dust storms.
Other alternatives aren’t as ideal as to the solution suggested in terms of taking adapting to the environment, complexity and cost. For example, although nuclear energy can supply a massive amounts power while not emitting much greenhouse gasses. It's relatively complicated to set up which requires many experts on site at all times for smooth operation. Besides, dealing with toxic waste adds to the overall complexity and cost in a substantial way. Hydro and geothermal energies can be harnessed with not much complications. However, they are not utilising and elevating the climate of the massive region of the Sahara, which has a great untapped potential in terms of power.
The United Nations Development Programme declared in 2000 The World Energy Assessment that the potential solar energy is 1,575–49,837 exajoules (EJ), which is multiple times larger the world’s energy consumption. Furthermore, Africa has the greatest solar resource of any continent (See figure 1). This demonstrates of the untapped potential of solar power.
Figure 1: Africa’s solar energy resource is the greatest of any other continents.
Wind energy is considered one of the most green sources of energy and that has increasingly advancing to reach high levels of efficiencies with the lowest costs. One of the disadvantages of solar powered plants is the lack of visibility of the sun at night and cloudy skies. With wind power, we can guarantee a never stopping power generation due to the endless wind in the Sahara.
Here is where things get interesting. New research concluded the using both wind and solar power have the potential of turning the Sahara desert green again. Inducing warmer temperatures and rainfall can help introduce higher chances for successful vegetations that would create a feedback loop to the environment, which creates further enhancements to the climate. Solar panels would absorb more sun radiations that causes the land surface temperature to get warmer. This in effect will promote lower pressure, causing airflow in toward the Sahara. Wind turbines act as an obstacle to air that reduces the pressure in the atmosphere. This difference of pressure between the Sahara and surrounding areas will increase airflow in the Sahara. Consequently, wind rises higher in the sky and forces the water vapour in it to condense (see figure 2).
Figure 2: Modeled rain impact by wind and solar farms.\
The design of the wind and solar farms has to be modular in order to make it easier increase occupied land gradually. This will smooth the transition in terms of cost and construction. To have an immediate utilization of the power farm, gridlines and internet connections has to be prepared and installed in advance or in parallel to the construction of the farm. Initially, Installation begin at the northern and southern periphery of the Sahara near occupied cities and towns. This will optimize the greenalization effect discussed earlier while have an initial ease of access to the targeted land. After finishing with the peripheries, we can start installing more power farms inward gradually. It’s roughly estimated that this project will take less 35 months to reach targeted power generation and 55 months for the environment to reach its vegetation potential.
Regular maintenance is required for both solar panels and wind turbines in order to maintain the highest efficiencies possible. However, remote access for an AI program to constantly analyse the state of the equipments is utilised and make maintenance arrangements. This will help the system to fully reach the potential of the plant and predict upcoming required maintenances in advance.
Solar panels and wind turbines are constantly being improved to reach higher efficiency and generated power per square meter. The modular design allows the plant to be constantly compatible for additional improvements.
1- UN Environment. “More than just clean energy: wind and solar in the Sahara could increase rainfall in the Sahel”
2- Alona Armstrong, Lancaster University “Massive solar and wind farms could bring vegetation back to the Sahara” Quartz Africa.
3- John Weaver "Researchers propose doubling today’s solar panel efficiency using two weird tricks
" PV Magazine. https://www.pv-magazine.com/2018/08/23/researchers-propose-doubling-todays-solar-panel-efficiency-using-two-weird-tricks/