Ecohydrological effects of photovoltaic solar farms on soil microclimates and moisture regimes in arid Northwest China: A modeling study

Wu C., Liu H., Yu Y., Zhao W., Liu J., Yu H., ...More

SCIENCE OF THE TOTAL ENVIRONMENT, vol.802, 2022 (Peer-Reviewed Journal) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 802
  • Publication Date: 2022
  • Doi Number: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.149946
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded, Scopus, Academic Search Premier, PASCAL, Aerospace Database, Analytical Abstracts, Aqualine, Aquatic Science & Fisheries Abstracts (ASFA), BIOSIS, Biotechnology Research Abstracts, CAB Abstracts, Chimica, Communication Abstracts, Compendex, EMBASE, Environment Index, Food Science & Technology Abstracts, Geobase, Greenfile, MEDLINE, Metadex, Pollution Abstracts, Public Affairs Index, Veterinary Science Database, Civil Engineering Abstracts
  • Keywords: Photovoltaic panels, Soil microclimate, Soil moisture, Synthetic model, Agrivoltaic systems, Solar farms, WATER-CONTROLLED ECOSYSTEMS, HYDROLOGIC PROCESSES, DAILY PRECIPITATION, WEATHER GENERATOR, ACTIVE-ROLE, TEMPERATURE, IMPACTS, DESERT, PLANTS, PANELS


Photovoltaic technology plays an important role in the sustainable development of clean energy, and arid areas are particularly ideal locations to build large-scale solar farms, all over the world. Modifications to the energy balance and water availability through the installation of large-scale solar farms, however, fundamentally affect the energy budget, water, and biogeochemical cycles. In-situ field observations, though, fail to draw definitive conclusions on how photovoltaic panels (PVs) affect the ambient environment, or how microclimates and soil moisture evolve under the long-term, continuous, cumulative influence of PVs. Here, we designed a synthetic model, integrating processes of energy budget and water cycle, to quantify the ecohydrological effects of PVs on soil microdimate and moisture regimes at different locations (zones) near individual PVs. Simulations run with a stochastically generated 100-year climate time series were examined to capture the evolutionary trends of soil microclimate and soil moisture:the results indicate that soil moisture content was increased by 59.8% to 113.6% in the Middle and Front zones, and soil temperature was decreased by 1.47 to 1.66 degrees C in all the sheltered zones, mainly because there was 5- 7 times more available water and similar to 27% less available radiation there, compared with the control zone. On the other hand, if the ground clearance of the PVs is too low, turbulence beneath hot PVs will have a significant influence on not only soil temperature but also soil moisture content. The innovative contribution of this study lies in reinforcing existing theoretical patterns for the development of soil microclimate and moisture dynamics influenced by PVs, and can be used to provide reliable insights into the hydrological and biogeochemical processes on Earth and the sustainable management of large-scale solar farms in arid ecosystems. (C) 2021 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.