Installing solar panels more eco-friendly than planting trees: Study

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Which is the fastest way to fight climate change: planting more trees or more solar panels?

A new study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology shows that if land use is taken into account, installing more solar panels or investing more in solar energy is more effective for climate protection than planting trees in the same area.

The study found that even photovoltaic farms break ground and start providing climate change mitigation benefits after 2.5 years, while forestry can take decades to reach its full potential.

Why this difference?

The difference between trees and solar panels in fighting climate change is how they work.

Trees, in forests, slowly remove carbon dioxide from the air, which helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions over time. Solar panels, on the other hand, directly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by replacing fossil electricity with clean renewable energy.

Interestingly, both trees and solar panels absorb sunlight and darken the earth’s surface, contributing to global warming.

A study compared sunlight reflectance, called surface albedo, to a field in Israel’s Negev desert with data from a nearby forest.

The study aims to see which method best balances the negative and positive issues. The results show that solar panels, especially in semi-arid areas, bring about this balance faster than planting trees.

Forests still cannot be replaced

Despite the immediate positive effects of solar energy, the study recognizes the overall benefits of forestry. In addition to reducing carbon, forests provide critical ecosystem services, regulate local climate, and provide social benefits such as recreation and biodiversity conservation.

See: India plans to reduce solar panel taxes by 50%

So despite the benefits of solar energy, we cannot overlook the importance of trees in the bigger picture.

The findings of this study highlight the importance of considering the potential for climate change mitigation and the wider environmental and social benefits when making land use decisions.

(with inputs from agencies)



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