Assessing the effects of photovoltaic powerplants on surface temperature using remote sensing techniques

Xunhe Zhang, Ming Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The rapid development of photovoltaic (PV) powerplants in the world has drawn attention on their climate and environmental impacts. In this study, we assessed the effects of PV powerplants on surface temperature using 23 largest PV powerplants in the world with thermal infrared remote sensing technique. Our result showed that the installation of the PV powerplants had significantly reduced the daily mean surface temperature by 0.53 °C in the PV powerplant areas. The cooling effect with the installation of the PV powerplants was much stronger during the daytime than the nighttime with the surface temperature dropped by 0.81 °C and 0.24 °C respectively. This cooling effect was also depended on the capacity of the powerplants with a cooling rate of-0.32,-0.48, and-0.14 °C/TWh, respectively, for daily mean, daytime, and nighttime temperature. We also found that the construction of the powerplants significantly decreased the surface albedo from 0.22 to 0.184, but significantly increased the effective albedo (surface albedo plus electricity conversion) from 0.22 to 0.244, suggesting conversion of solar energy to electrical energy is a major contributor to the observed surface cooling. Our further analyses showed that the nighttime cooling in the powerplants was significantly correlated with the latitude and elevation of the powerplants as well as the annual mean temperature, precipitation, solar radiation, and normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI). This means the temperature effect of the PV powerplants depended on regional geography, climate and vegetation conditions. This finding can be used to guide the selection of the sites of PV powerplants in the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1825
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


  • Convective cooling
  • Effective albedo
  • NDVI
  • Photovoltaic powerplants


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