Study shows pollution dramatically reducing solar power generation in China

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An international team of researchers has found that air pollution in China is dramatically reducing the amount of power that is generated by solar cells in that country. In their paper published in the journal Nature Energy, the group describes studying data from solar observational stations over the past several decades and what they found.

China currently leads the world in solar energy production—the country produced 170 gigawatts of power at the end of last year. And the country has plans to add a lot more. But according to the new study, China is not realizing the full potential of its due to —particles in the air block some of the solar radiation.

To find out how much of an impact air pollution has on solar production in China, the researchers obtained data from 119 solar measuring stations across the country going all the way back to 1960. They also collected data on and sulfur dioxide emissions for the same period as a way to make sure that any reductions in solar radiation they found came from air pollution rather than climate change.

The researchers were able to work out how much less solar radiation was reaching the ground over the years 1960 to 2015. They then compared solar radiation levels with solar energy installations and production. Doing so allowed them to see just how much less power was being produced due to air pollution. They report that in 2016, China produced 14 terawatt hours less than it could have were pollution levels the same as they were in 1960. They further report that because China is planning to triple its solar energy production by 2030, the country could be losing out on 74 TWh a year, if pollution levels hold steady. They note also that at 2016 rates, the country lost out on $1.9 billion worth of electricity that year—and that could rise to $6.7 billion by 2030.

The researchers also found that measures taken by the government in recent years to reduce air pollution have had a small impact on diminishing —they describe it as a "minor reversal" for the years 2010 to 2015.


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Air pollution cuts solar energy potential in China

More information: Bart Sweerts et al. Estimation of losses in solar energy production from air pollution in China since 1960 using surface radiation data, Nature Energy (2019). DOI: 10.1038/s41560-019-0412-4
Journal information: Nature Energy

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Jul 09, 2019
China currently leads the world in solar energy production—the country produced 170 gigawatts of power at the end of last year.


No, you don't produce power. You produce energy. "Produced 170GW" doesn't really mean anything. Maybe it means the maximum capacity of the solar panels if everyone of them was receiving 100% sunlight at noon. It is unclear.

Need a better to compare it to the 74 TWh number mentioned later on in the article. Poorly researched and written.

Jul 09, 2019
Besides air pollution limiting solar power ground pollution like dust and particulates also degrade efficiency. These panels have to be cleaned on a regular basis in order to maintain output using lots of fresh water. Saudi Arabia just announced a huge plant. Good luck finding the fresh water to keep them clean until the first sand storm makes them totally unusable.

Jul 09, 2019
@MR166.
Besides air pollution limiting solar power ground pollution like dust and particulates also degrade efficiency. These panels have to be cleaned on a regular basis in order to maintain output using lots of fresh water. Saudi Arabia just announced a huge plant. Good luck finding the fresh water to keep them clean until the first sand storm makes them totally unusable.
Haven't you heard about RECYCLING cleaning-water, mate?...eg, as done in (both environmentally responsible and economically profitable) Automated Car-Wash businesses. :)

Jul 09, 2019
https://www.clima...s-clean/

Well RC I guess that not everyone recycles the water.

Jul 09, 2019
https://www.clima...s-clean/

Well RC I guess that not everyone recycles the water.
That is a reflection on the lack of environmental laws/responsibility on the part of the Indian Govt/Industry than the solar power system itself, isn't it? That's why Trump's attempts to water down the USA's environmental laws/responsibility is a disastrous backwards step that will usher in a return to the bad old days when USA was as polluted in air/water/food as India and China are still to day. So, unless you are advocating bad environmental/economic practice as part of renewables approach, then it's up to the world's govts to keep (all kinds of) industries on the right path to cleaner, more sustainable future; by strengthening environmental/economic incentives/penalties to encourage doing the right (and still very profitable) thing, isn't it? Good luck and good thinking to us all. :)

Jul 09, 2019
I seem to recall that a certain physorg commentator, perhaps more than one, took umbrage at any opposition to the ChiComm's generating of air pollution, and that the Chinese gov't should be scolded for contributing so lavishly toward global air pollution that they are so willing to share with those across the Pacific O. I can't recall the user name and it is perhaps better that way. They know who they are.
The opposition/opposers to that situation was deftly considered to be a "Racist" and a Bigot, while possibly believing that the IPCC has better things to do than annoy Beijing with such trivial matters.
Sad to say, the situation in China seems to be ongoing and, I suppose that labeling the Chinese as perennial polluters will still have to be considered racist and bigoted by those same folks who are willing to tolerate Chinese-generated pollution, but not from the USA.

Jul 10, 2019
SEU the truth is that the whole AGW movement is just a ploy to give China and other Eastern countries an economic advantage over the West. For decades there have been predictions saying that the earth will reach a tipping point in another 20 years or so. But the much touted Paris agreement does not require China to even begin a reduction in CO2 emissions until 2030. It is pretty obvious the purpose of the AGW hoax.

Jul 10, 2019
@MR166.

Further to my previous, I long pointed out many benefits of renewables that make them a sensible alternative to coal power anyway, regardless of the politics. They will be more economic, sustainable, cleaner, safer and reach more of the population than big centralised dirty and exploitative coal power plants systems. So the economics/benefits makes them preferable to transition to in any case, irrespective of personal/political stances on the matter. In re to solar power systems, I also pointed out that recycling cleaning water is not a big deal/cost compared to benefits/returns. Moreover, the following links explain many benefits/synergies possible for solar panels:

https://techxplor...rgy.html

https://techxplor...ing.html

I trust you'll now drop the biased/misinformed stance and see the future instead of carping futilely/unimaginativey from the sidelines, mate. Cheers. :)

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