Air pollution prevents solar power from being effective in regions that need clean energy the most

We report this recent article from The rising, explaining how air pollution may prevent solar power from being effective in regions that need clean energy the most.

Air pollution in China blocks the path to solar

It’s no secret that China has some of the most polluted skies in the world. In China’s urban regions, you can hardly see the sun through the heavily polluted skies. 

The dense layer of smoke and aerosols in China’s sky prevents a lot of sunlight from ever reaching solar panels. Fine dust and ash in the air scatter sun-rays, causing less light to hit solar panels on the ground. Nature published a study that found that if China’s pollution was reduced to 1960’s levels, solar panels would’ve produced about 12 percent more energy in 2016.

In certain areas of China, pollution could reduce sunlight exposure by over 30%. In these areas, many of which are polluted due to reliance on coal, solar power may not be economically feasible. Paradoxically, cities that are most reliant on coal have the hardest time switching to solar due to air pollution.

India suffers significant solar energy losses to air pollution

India, which is home to nine out of ten of the world’s most polluted cities, also has an enormous problem with solar efficiency. A 2017 report in the Environmental Science and Technology Letters found that air pollution reduced solar energy production by between 17 and 25 percent across India, China, and the Arabian Peninsula. 

India’s solar industry suffers the most from this pollution. The country loses over 25% of its solar energy to air pollution. To put it into perspective, that’s over a gigawatt of solar-generated electricity. Given that India has pledged to double solar capacity by 2040, losing 25% of that power is an enormous economic loss. 

Cities and villages in India that rely on solar power are especially at risk of air pollution. Fluctuating air quality could greatly reduce the energy security of many Indian communities. 

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Antonio Cianci