The hot spots for installation of solar photovoltaic may become “cold spots” due to future climate changes.
Scholars from Princeton University have recently discovered that the ascending temperature of the surface of the earth has resulted in an increase of atmospheric moisture, aerosols, and particulate matters, as well as an escalation in the number of cloudy days. A reduction of global photoperiod (solar radiation) is followed naturally by an impact on the volume of solar power generation, of which Middle East and Southwestern US, who possess the highest potential in solar power, are most likely to sustain the relevant ramification.
Princeton University utilizes satellite data and climate models to predict the future status of global temperature rise and observes the changes of solar radiation under climate change in order to further evaluate the impact on the power generation at solar power generation hot spots. Amilare Porporato, professor at the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, Princeton University, compared solar hot spots to the academic results of the students, where he commented that the existing dry areas are like students who receive A everyday, and now the results of students who perform remarkably must be predicated and quantified to the frequency of B or C due to the interference of climate change on dynamic weather and solar radiation.
The study of the research team is calculated primarily by probability, for example, the reliability of solar power is evaluated based on the atmospheric moisture and the quantity of aerosols in dry areas for the predictions on flood or drought. Porporato commented that high temperature allows the atmosphere to accommodate more moisture, which is more likely to form turbulence and clouds, and particulate matters will only retain longer in the air.
Porporato pointed out that soil dryness is also a pressing issue. As the temperature rises and atmospheric turbulence increases in dry areas of the Middle East, the surface of the earth is met with more sand dust and aerosols, as well as a depletion of solar radiation, for which the trend can also be seen on the climate observation network.
However, the research team is yet to precisely predict the future of Southwestern US. Several models from the study have indicated that solar radiation has increased, and daylight has become stabilized, where some models are also displaying completely opposite results. Jun Yin, first author of the thesis, commented that such result has exhibited the difficulties in the prediction on the reliability of solar power generation due to the uncertain future.
Nonetheless, this study will still be useful for the design of future solar power plants and energy storage system. The research team will further study the frequency of continuous sunny or cloudy days, as well as the range of cloud blockage on trees in absorbing carbon dioxide and sunlight, which is influential in the strategies for climate change.
(Cover photo source: Flickr/Bureau of Land Management CC BY 2.0)