A Tennessee Tech Mechanical Engineer Assistant Professor has been awarded $500,000 to research solar panel impacts on the climate.
Ahmad Vaselbehagh said scientific leaders and policy makers have two goals today: electrifying everything and generating that required electricity through renewable energy. Vaselbehagh said he wants to know how the atmosphere responds to this.
“There is a neglected but very crucial question and that question is that whether extracting that much of energy and you’re talking about hundreds of trillions of kilowatt-hours of energy from he atmosphere would alter the atmospheres physics.”
Vaselbehagh said he will lead a research team of students over the next five year to answer this question. Vaselbehagh said he believes there is currently a lack of scientific knowledge and leadership to address this issue.
Vaselbehagh said solar panels and plants have grown in size and power since the renewable energy push. Vaselbehagh said he wants to avoid a similar situation created by fossil fuels by ensuring that extracting so much energy from the atmosphere will not alter the local climate.
“Failing to address this concern on time could result in making the same mistake that was made with fossil fuels, when the obsession with inventing more powerful engines saturated the scientific and engineering community to such an extent that their potential environmental impacts were overlooked,” Vaselbehagh said. “Had such studies been conducted on the direct effects of fossil fuels on the atmosphere, and consequently, the weather and climate during the industrial revolution… the current climate change issue could have been avoided or, at least, be less severe.”
Vaselbehagh said he earned the research funding through a 15-page proposal to the National Science Foundation. Vaselbehagh’s award will also create new courses for mechanical engineering undergraduate students to study fluid dynamics and thermal transport in the atmosphere.