Solar Park Impacts on Air and Soil Microclimate

Friday, 18 December 2015: 08:45
2022-2024 (Moscone West)
Alona Armstrong1, Nicholas J Ostle1 and Jeanette Whitaker2, (1)University of Lancaster, Lancaster, United Kingdom, (2)Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Lancaster, United Kingdom
The drive towards low carbon energy sources and increasing energy demand has resulted in a rapid rise in solar photovoltaics across the world. A substantial proportion of photovoltaics are large-scale ground-mounted systems, solar parks, causing a notable land use change. While the impacts of photovoltaic panel production and disposal have been considered, the consequences of the operation of solar parks on the hosting landscape are poorly resolved. Here, we present data which demonstrates that a solar park sited on permanent grassland in the UK significantly impacted the air and soil microclimate. Specifically, we observed (1) cooler soil under the photovoltaic panels during the summer and between the photovoltaic panel rows during the winter; (2) dampening of the diurnal variation in air temperature and absolute humidity from the spring to the autumn; (3) lower photosynthetically active radiation and a lower direct:diffuse under the panels; and (4) reduced wind speed between the panel rows and substantially reduced wind speeds under the panels. Further, there were differences in vegetation type and productivity and greenhouse gas emissions. Given the centrality of climate on ecosystem function, quantifying the microclimatic impacts of this emerging land use change is critical. We anticipate these data will help develop understanding of effects in other climates, under different solar park designs and the implications for the function and service provision of the hosting landscape.