Reduction of solar photovoltaic resources due to air pollution in China

Xiaoyuan Li, Fabian Wagner, Wei Peng, Junnan Yang, Denise L. Mauzerall

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44 Scopus citations

Abstract

Solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity generation is expanding rapidly in China, with total capacity projected to be 400 GW by 2030. However, severe aerosol pollution over China reduces solar radiation reaching the surface. We estimate the aerosol impact on solar PV electricity generation at the provincial and regional grid levels in China. Our approach is to examine the 12-year (2003–2014) average reduction in point-of-array irradiance (POAI) caused by aerosols in the atmosphere. We apply satellite-derived surface irradiance data from the NASA Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) with a PV performance model (PVLIB-Python) to calculate the impact of aerosols and clouds on POAI. Our findings reveal that aerosols over northern and eastern China, the most polluted regions, reduce annual average POAI by up to 1.5 kWh/m2 per day relative to pollution-free conditions, a decrease of up to 35%. Annual average reductions of POAI over both northern and eastern China are about 20–25%. We also evaluate the seasonal variability of the impact and find that aerosols in this region are as important as clouds in winter. Furthermore, we find that aerosols decrease electricity output of tracking PV systems more than those with fixed arrays: over eastern China, POAI is reduced by 21% for fixed systems at optimal angle and 34% for two-axis tracking systems. We conclude that PV system performance in northern and eastern China will benefit from improvements in air quality and will facilitate that improvement by providing emission-free electricity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11867-11872
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume114
Issue number45
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 7 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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