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Solar Farms Would Save 36.9 Gigatons of Carbon by 2050

Ian Calderwood/Geograph

Solar farms rank #8 on Drawdown’s list of climate solutions, with the potential to eliminate 36.9 gigatons of carbon dioxide and produce net savings of US$5 trillion by 2050. On top of that the implementation costs of solar farms could deliver $81 billion in additional savings compared to fossil plants.

First introduced in the 1980s, solar farms consist of hundreds, even millions of panels that generate utility-scale electricity. Their output can be on a par with non-renewable power plants, but that’s where the similarities end: Compared to fossil technology, solar farms have the potential to “curtail 94% of the carbon emissions that coal plants emit and completely eliminate emissions of sulphur and nitrous oxides, mercury, and particulates.”

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Photovoltaic solar cells were once so costly that they were only used for space satellites, Drawdown notes. But thanks to incentive programs, technological developments, and public investment, PV costs have plummeted, and will continue to decline. “Informed predictions about the cost and growth of solar PV indicate that it will soon become the least expensive energy in the world.”

Drawdown says solar farms offer several benefits compared to rooftop solar: Their installation costs per kilowatt are lower, and they have a higher overall efficiency rating. Nevertheless, energy from the sun is not always consistent, and Drawdown suggests developing solar farms alongside other renewable energy sources like geothermal and wind power.

The benefits of solar farms are already being noticed. At the moment when Drawdown published, utility-scale solar was offsetting 220 to 330 million tons of carbon dioxide per year, and in 2015, PVs met 8% of Italy’s electricity demand. The industry continues to add milestones pretty much daily, leading to an ever higher tally of greenhouse gas reductions.