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It seems as though plants would have an easier time getting established in the desert if they had more shade. Plants generally help moderate the temperature and increase humidity, making it easier for other plants to thrive. So if we put utility scale solar farms in the marginally desert areas and
encourage plants to grow under them, that could possibly encourage plants to grow nearby as well and help stop or reverse the expansion of deserts.
By todays standards, an ideal solar farm would capture all direct sunlight since thats kind of the point. Plants can still grow under the panels since there is indirect light from the sky, but plant grow much better when they can have some direct sunlight. We could put spaces between panels, but then you get periods of harsh sun and full shade moving across the ground over the day. If the area was fully covered but there were small holes in the panels, that would provide dappled sunlight, which tends to be good for growing a wide variety of plants. Cutting holes would be expensive, but currently many panels are composed of cells where the round wafers have segments sides cut off to make them square or almost square. This results in the panel taking up less space per watt. If costs could be saved by not having to cut off all those edges, and the panels could be designed to let light go through the gaps between cells, the land under the solar arrays could be more productive for dual use purposes, mitigating the additional land cost per watt. Combined, this might reduce cost AND make the solar farms better for the environment.
Solar Farm Grounds Management Vegetation Control
An intersting article about what to do under the solar panels [scad mientist, Sep 12 2013]