A lot can keep solar panels from generating electricity, from cloud cover blocking the sun to simply being nighttime. But according to recent research, one of the biggest obstacles facing solar farms is smog and haze from air pollution.
It’s not surprising that air pollution can make solar panels less effective since it can cut down on visibility and reduce the amount of sunlight reaching the ground. In the past, researchers have found that air pollution can lead to dust buildup on solar panels that can dramatically reduce their effectiveness.
This new research, from scientists at MIT and Singapore, calculates how much solar energy is lost due to smog in many of the world’s biggest cities. In the city of Delhi, one of the world’s most polluted cities, electricity generation is reduced by more than 10 percent the study finds, which translates to a cost of more than $20 million.
The problem is more than just inefficiency. A loss of this size could spell doom for many urban solar farms by seriously inhibiting their ability to turn a profit. Pollution can turn a money-making solar farm into a money sink.
Even worse, the lack of a solar alternative naturally just increases reliance on smog-generating fossil fuels and could serve to lock entire regions into a vicious cycle. This gives us another reason to keep our air clean, just in case we didn’t have enough.
Source: Energy and Environmental Science
Originally posted on Popular Mechanics USA