Air Pollution Hindering Solar Energy Potential in China

Air Pollution

The Government of China is reportedly putting efforts at expanding its solar power supply, to meet 10% of the nation’s electricity needs with solar energy by 2030. However, the nation’s solar plants are being affected adversely by air pollution.

According to a published study last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a US journal, it was reported that the particulate matter was blocking the amount of sun reaching solar panel arrays, and reducing China’s output of solar energy.

The researchers at the Princeton University, reportedly examined how much of the sun’s radiation was reduced by aerosol components, including nitrate, sulfate, black carbon particulates, and brown organic compounds, using NASA satellite data.

The researchers examined data covering all of China from 2003 to 2014. They observed that in northern and eastern China, which is reportedly the country’s most polluted areas, the solar electricity generation could be reduced due to air pollution by up to 1.5 kilowatt-hours per square meter every day. This could imply a drop of around 35% production capacity in Shandong’s eastern province, one of the top 10 provinces in the context of photovoltaic capacity last year.

The study also found that in western China, which was less industrialized and urbanized the air pollution cut around 10% of solar power production. The worst waste reportedly came in during winters, when the blocking effect of air pollution was found similar to that of the clouds. The air pollution in winter prevented around 20% of solar energy from reaching photovoltaic panels on an average.

The waste clearly does not support China’s solar ambitions, with the nation aiming to achieve an installed photovoltaic capacity of 105 gigawatts by 2020. Cleaner air would definitely support the nation’s solar energy vision.

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