Air pollution throws shade on India’s solar success

Air pollution is diminishing India’s capacity to harness power from the sun, experts say, undermining billions being invested in renewables as the energy-hungry giant emerges as a solar superpower.

New research has found the smog and dust that sickens millions across India every year is also sapping by more than 25 percent, far beyond levels previously thought.

In the first study of its kind, US and Indian scientists measured how man-made particles floating in the air and deposited as grime on combined to seriously impair sunlight from converting to energy.

This interference causes steep drops in power generation, they found.

At present levels in India, it could amount to roughly 3,900 megawatts of lost energy—six times the capacity of its largest solar farm, a gigantic field of 2.5 million panels.

“A simple calculation shows that this is a big amount of energy we are going to lose,” Professor Chinmay Ghoroi, who co-authored the paper, told AFP at the Indian Institute of Technology in Gandhinagar.

These huge losses will only compound as India realizes its grand solar ambitions, experts say.

India, the world’s third-largest polluter, is banking on solar to electrify homes for hundreds of millions of its poorest citizens without adding to its sizeable carbon footprint.

India, the world’s third-largest polluter, is banking on solar projects like these canal-top solar panels in Chandrasan village, near Ahmedabad, to electrify homes for hundreds of millions of its poorest citizens.

At the Paris climate summit in 2015, India pledged cuts to its future emissions and vowed to source at least 40 percent of its energy from renewables by 2030—a target it is well on track to exceed.

New panels are being installed so fast that India is expected to more than double capacity this year, overtaking Japan as the world’s third-largest solar market.

Billion-dollar hit

But with this spectacular growth comes “an exponential rise in the total amount of money lost” because of , said Mike Bergin, a professor from Duke University in North Carolina, who leads the research published in June.

“We’re talking billions of dollars here, easy,” he told AFP.

The dust has long been a menace for solar projects in desert states like Rajasthan and Gujarat, where robotic wipers are deployed to ensure panels are cleaned after sandstorms.

But the new research confirmed what solar installers had long suspected—that choking smog from cars, coal plants, crop burning and trash fires was particularly adept at bleeding energy.

The grimy coating that man-made pollutants deposit on solar panels is far more effective at blocking light than dust and trickier to remove by washing, Bergin and Ghoroi found.

Read more at Phys.org

Comments (2)

  • Avatar

    Moose

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    But, what at night and cloudy days?
    Where is the electricity then coming from?

  • Avatar

    Spurwing Plover

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    From a nation that woships cows,elephants and have revrance for rats and allow their children to starve and pollution is bad but not as bad as china the nation that liberal eco-wackos hold up as a role model for america to follow at least if you read or you kids has read THE KIDS ENVIROEMNT BOOK or A EARTH BOOK FOR KIDS or one of their liberal leftists written text books

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