E.ON Climate and Renewables’ Headwater Wind Farm in Madison County, Ind., is home to 125 wind turbines.
Editor’s Note: The following is part of a class project initiated in the classroom of Ball State University professor Adam Kuban, who challenged his students to find sustainability efforts in the Muncie area. Several such stories will be featured in The Star Press in November.
MUNCIE, Ind. — For years, the world has been facing the aspect of climate change with renewable energy resources such as solar panels, wind farms and hydropower.
If current trends continue, climate change experts warn, these resources will no longer be enough.
An article in the journal, “Nature Climate Change” warned that a “warming scenario will impact renewable energy sources and future energy systems.”
One only need to chart how frequently we see a sunny day in the forecast.
In his own study, FOX59 meteorologist Bryan Wilkes has been tracking the number of overcast days per month in Indiana over the past two years.
“What I’ve found is that very few days have been completely clear,” said Wilkes. “Each of the last 22 months, with the exception of last November (2020), have produced more cloud coverage than normal.”
More: Get Up and Grow: A little mess this time of year can be better for your garden, habitat
Wilkes’ data revealed that the month with the lowest possible sunlight over the past two years was December 2020, with 38%. August 2020 had the highest, with 68%.
“If we’re having more cloud cover, that would probably be a product of more rain clouds and of more convection, which would be a product of perhaps the warming of the planet,” Wilkes explained.
This increase in cloud cover could be concerning for the efficiency of renewable energy resources such as solar panels, which depend on the sun to create energy.
The book, “Climate Change and the Future of Sustainability: The Impact on Renewable Resources” by Muyiwa Adaramola, talks about the effects that climate change will have on alternative energy.
“Climate change will impact temperature and irradiance and therefore will alter the output of PV systems,” states Adaramola in her book, which was published in 2016.
A PV, or photovoltaic, system allows sunlight to be transformed into electricity. This means that if the climate continues to change, and the days become cloudier, then solar panels may not be as effective because they are not getting the amount of energy needed.
More: Two solar farms OK’d for northern Delaware County as rural landscape likely to change
“The technology is there to dramatically slow down climate change,” said Jeffery Dukes, director of the Purdue Climate Change Research Center and director of the Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment. “There are some ways that we have structured society that will make it really hard to stop it entirely.”
Dukes explained that if climate change continues at the current rate, “we could get something like a 5-degree Fahrenheit warming by mid-century.”
According to NASA, this warming can have serious consequences for the world.
Heatwaves will become more common, especially in tropical areas. Cold seasons will be shorter as well. There is a possibility of drought and water scarcity, despite the increase of heavy rainfall and sea levels rising. Many ecosystems will be harmed, and human health may be at risk.
Kennedy Library has solar panels installed in in its parking lot.
Businesses around East Central Indiana have already taken steps to do their part in slowing climate change. For example, in 2016, the Kennedy Library in Muncie installed solar panels on the car port, funded through the SUN Energy grant.
“It depends on what your goals are,” said Donna Catron, Kennedy Library manager, when asked if businesses in the area should donate resources to install panels of their own.
While the library benefits from the solar panels powering its meeting room, Catron explained they use them mostly as education opportunities. Library visitors get to see firsthand how to battle climate change in their hometown, and it promotes discussion about what can be done next, both individually and worldwide.
Wilkes and Dukes had similar stances when it came to the future of sustainability: slowing climate change is a group effort.
“We as a country can go out and find all of these alternative resources, but you need a collective work by the entire world to be able to control that,” said Wilkes.
“And of course, we can’t do this — no individual can do this; no state can do this on their own; no country can do this on their own. It’s got to be a global effort with everybody pitching in,” said Dukes.
This article originally appeared on Muncie Star Press: Muncie area experts study how climate change could affect solar energy