BORED with geography lessons despite the fantastic new David Attenborough series on the box about the coldest places on planet Earth?
Well here’s something that might fire you up . . . renewable energy. Mention prime geography for generation of solar energy, and most of us tend to think of hot deserts.
But a new study concludes that some of the world’s coldest landscapes – including the Himalayas, Andes, and even Antarctica – could become Saudi Arabias of solar.
According to Kotaro Kawajiri and colleagues at the world famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the potential for generating electricity with renewable solar energy depends heavily on geographic location.
Arid and semi-arid areas with plenty of sunshine long have been recognised as good solar sites.
However, the scientists point out that, as a result of the limited data available for critical weather-related conditions on a global scale, gaps still exist in knowledge about the best geographical locations for producing solar energy.
To expand that knowledge, they used one established technique to estimate global solar energy potential using the data that is available.
The technique takes into account the effects of temperature on the output of solar cells.
Future work will consider other variables, such as transmission losses and snow fall.
As expected, they found that many hot regions are indeed ideal locations for solar arrays. However, they also found that many cold regions at high elevations receive a lot of sunlight – so much so that their potential for producing power from the sun is even higher than in some desert areas.
Kawajiri and colleagues found, for instance, that the Himalayas, which include Mount Everest, could be an ideal locale for solar fields that generate electricity for the fast-expanding economy of the People’s Republic of China.