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Sun drenched or sun starved: Evaluating climate and ecosystem impacts of solar energy development

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Saturday, February 29, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

The rationale: Decarbonisation of energy supplies to mitigate climate change is triggering notable land take across the world. Land-use change is the greatest driver of decline in nature and therefore, such decisions risk trading global-scale climate change for local-scale ecosystem degradation. However, there is also the potential to use land-use change for renewable energy to facilitate improvements in ecosystem health. Understanding the impacts of ground-mounted solar energy power plants, including those using photovoltaic and concentrating solar power technologies, on ecosystems is very limited despite their rapid growth rates.

The focus:This PhD will resolve the local climate impacts of solar energy plants and consequences for ecosystem carbon cycling, elucidating how responses vary with solar energy and ecosystem types across the world to calculate the true carbon cost of the electricity produced. Example research questions include: (1) How is landscape carbon sequestration affected by solar energy development? (2) How does the size and configuration of solar energy plant influence local climate and ecosystem responses? (3) Which ecosystems types are most resilient to solar energy power plant development?

The candidate will develop knowledge of the environmental impacts of renewable energy technologies, a very topical field. They will be trained in generic scientific skills (i.e. scientific writing, experimental design, and statistical analysis) and specific skills, for example, remote sensing, GIS, field monitoring with environmental instruments and sensors, and carbon modelling. Finally, they will gain knowledge of both temperate and arid ecosystems with the opportunity to undertake fieldwork in the UK, Mojave Desert and possibly other locations, including China

Please contact Dr Alona Armstrong () for further information. Deadline for applications is 29 February 2020. Provisional interview date is late March/early April.

Funding Notes

Full studentships (UK/EU tuition fees and stipend (£15,009 2019/20 [tax free])) for UK/EU students for 3.5 years. Unfortunately funding is not available for International (non EU) students.

Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in environmental science, geography, ecology, statistics or computing.

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