ENVIRONMENT | Staff Reporter, China

China's pollution problem curbed solar PV potential by 11-15%: study

Surface radiation has been affected by emissions of sulfur dioxide and black carbon.

China’s renewables industry could be taking a toll from the state’s massive pollution problem. According to a study published in the journal Nature Energy, pollution caused by emissions is affecting solar radiation in China.

“Anthropogenic aerosol emissions and changes in cloud cover affect solar radiation in China,” said lead author Bart Sweets. The study used observational radiation data from 119 stations across China to show that the photovoltaic (PV) potential decreased on average by 11–15% between 1960 and 2015.

“The relationship between observed surface radiation and emissions of sulfur dioxide and black carbon suggests that strict air pollution control measures, combined with reduced fossil fuel consumption, would allow surface radiation to increase,” Sweets said, and added reverting back to 1960s radiation levels in China could yield a 12–13% increase in electricity generation.

This is equivalent to an additional 14TWh produced with 2016 PV capacities, and 51–74TWh with the expected 2030 capacities. The corresponding economic benefits could amount to $1.9b in 2016 and $4.6b–$6.7b in 2030, the study added.

China has 130 GW of installed solar PV capacity as of 2017. China’s PV capacity is expected to reach at least 400 GW by 2030, to provide 10% of its primary energy.

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