Solar power bares desert fruit

Chile is famous for its produce, and much of that produce grows on reclaimed desert land. One farm is using solar power to make its arid operations more sustainable.

Making the desert bloom - with renewable energy. (Image credit:

Humans have made the desert bloom throughout antiquity and into the modern era. The intense sun holds the potential to scorch crops, but resourceful farmers have begun to harness its power to have more sustainable harvests.

The BBC's Katia Moskvitch today published a report about fruit producer Subsole, which is located in Chile's Atacama Desert. Subsole grows table grapes in its vineyard, and draws water from an underground reservoir. Solar energy powers the irrigation system.

Enough energy is produced to power a 20-story building, or 600 households, Kraftwerk, a German renewable energy company that partners with Subsole, told the BBC. Kraftwerk hopes that the project will serve as a proof of concept for other Atacaman farms and hopes that the Chilean government will continue its support renewables. Chile receives some of the highest solar radiation in the world.

A vineyard in Spain is another recent example of wine and spirits producers turning to clean energy to control its expenses. Using solar power reduces operating costs and makes desert farming more sustainable. It does not, however, mean that every farm that makes the switch to solar power will become fully sustainable.

There are many examples of geoengineering gone wrong and the potentially ruinous environmental consequences of desert irrigation. An irrigation project could have harmful long-term impacts on water resources, for example.

Solar power allows for smarter planning and locating farms in areas that are less environmentally sensitive. That makes sense both for the farmers' bottom lines and for the large percentage of the world's population living in arid regions.

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