Haze in cities reduces the effectiveness of solar panels, scientists have demonstrated.
Thriving metropolises in the developing world could certainly use more solar power so as to wean them off their dependence on fossil fuels like coal for energy generation. This is especially the case in India, one of the world’s most populous nations with chronic air pollution but perennially sunny days almost all year round across most of the country.
There’s a bit of a problem, though. Haze in cities reduces the effectiveness of solar panels. “Urban haze is a multifaceted threat. Foremost a major health hazard, it also affects the passage of light through the lower atmosphere,” a team of experts observe in a paper in which they detail the results of their look at the impact that haze has on the performance of photovoltaic installations in cities.
In their research, the scientists used high-resolution field data from Delhi and Singapore so as to demonstrate the extent permanent air pollution has on photovoltaic power generation.
“For Delhi, we find that insolation received by silicon PV panels was reduced by 11.5% ± 1.5% or 200 kWh m−2 per year between 2016 and 2017 due to air pollution,” they explain. “We extended this analysis to 16 more cities around the planet and estimated insolation reductions ranging from 2.0% (Singapore) to 9.1% (Beijing).”
The results of their research show that in the worst-polluted cities the viability of solar energy generation can be severely curtailed. Needless to say, this will have a long-term negative impact on the financial viability of solar power installations in urban settings with high levels of chronic air pollution as local photovoltaic installations will be performing well below their actual capacity.