Princeton study: China’s air pollution cuts into solar energy production

china solar

China is rapidly expanding its solar power supply, hoping to meet 10 percent of the nation’s electricity needs with solar energy by 2030. But there’s a problem: severe air pollution is blocking light from the sun, significantly reducing China’s output of solar energy, particularly in the northern and eastern parts of the country.

This issue is worst in the winter, when — according to research from Princeton University — air pollution in these regions blocks about 20 percent of sunlight from reaching solar panel arrays, on average. That makes air pollution’s wintertime effect on solar energy production as significant as that of clouds, which have long been considered the main impediment to solar energy production.

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study shows that in the most polluted areas of northern and eastern China, aerosol pollution is reducing the potential for solar electricity generation by as much as one and a half kilowatt-hour per square meter per day, or up to 35 percent. That’s enough to power a vacuum cleaner for one hour, wash 12 pounds of laundry or work on a laptop for five to 10 hours.

Burning fossil fuels increases aerosol concentrations in the atmosphere. Other researchers have recognized that these aerosols, which include sulfate, nitrate, black carbon particulates and brown organic compounds, are contributing to solar dimming over large parts of China. But no previous research had calculated just how much aerosols in the atmosphere are reducing China’s solar energy generating efficiency.

“Developing countries with severe air pollution that are rapidly expanding solar power, such as China and India, often neglect the role of aerosols in their planning, but it can be an important factor to consider,” said Xiaoyuan (Charles) Li, a Ph.D. candidate in Princeton’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the study’s lead author.

GlobalData: Solar is world’s favorite type of electricity generation (U.S. loses ground under Trump)

To calculate how much of the sun’s radiation is reaching solar arrays on the ground, the scientists used what’s called a solar photovoltaic performance model, combined with satellite data from NASA instruments that measure irradiance from the sun and analyze aerosol components and clouds in the atmosphere. They conducted nine separate analyses, which spanned 2003 to 2014 and covered all of China, to compare the impact of aerosols compared to clouds on solar power generation with and without technology that tracks the sun as it moves across the sky.

“Particulate pollution from power plants, vehicles, biomass burning and natural events such as dust storms” can be a major impediment to solar power generation, said Daniel Kammen, the Class of 1935 Distinguished Professor of Energy and director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Lab at the University of California, Berkeley, who was not involved in the research. The study, he said, “uses rigorous atmospheric chemistry modeling” to quantify how pollution affects the amount of solar radiation reaching the ground, “which, ironically, also can be used to determine the clean energy benefits” of cutting carbon emissions.

Li said the study’s findings should further spur countries like China and India to cut aerosol emissions so they reduce pollution and thereby increase their solar electricity generation more rapidly, in addition to the already known health benefits. There is also potential for a virtuous cycle: expanding solar energy production could reduce reliance on fossil fuels, thus cutting down on the very emissions that hamper solar power production, Li said. This would send more solar electricity into the grid — which, in turn, should further cut the need for fossil fuels.

The findings can also help determine where to build new solar arrays. Aerosol pollution in China is heavily concentrated in industrialized, urbanized regions, while remote, thinly populated areas have much cleaner air. If research can quantify how much air pollution is reducing solar power output, policymakers can weigh the costs of transmitting electricity from cleaner regions to dirtier ones against the benefits of producing more power by building arrays where more sunlight reaches the ground.

“Reduction in solar generation due to clouds has been a primary focus in the past,” said Denise L. Mauzerall, a professor of Environmental Engineering and International Affairs who serves as Li’s faculty adviser and helped develop the study. “But this is the one of the first times atmospheric air pollution has been taken into account in determining solar photovoltaic cells’ ability to generate electricity.”

For their next project, the researchers are expanding their analyses to other regions of the world, including India, which suffers from air pollution levels as high as China’s. In addition to how air pollutants in the atmosphere reduce electricity generation by absorbing sunlight, they will also examine how air pollutants may reduce power generation by dirtying the solar panels themselves.

The study, “Reduction of Solar Photovoltaic Resources Due to Air Pollution in China,” by Xiaoyuan Li, Fabian Wagner, Wei Peng, Junnan Yang, and Denise L. Mauzerall, will appear online Oct. 23 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

— Solar Builder magazine

Trina Solar completes 3 distributed generation projects in China (27 MW)

Trina Solar Limited successfully completed and connected three distributed generation projects totaling 27 MW to the grid in Suqian City, Jiangsu Province, China at the end of December 2015.

TrinasolarPowered by approximately 110,000 Trina Solar “Honey” modules, the Projects are installed on the rooftops of three large manufacturing factories located in the Suqian Economic & Technological Development Zone (SEDZ). Wholly owned by Trina Solar, the green electricity that the projects generate is expected to reach approximately 30 million kWh per year over the next 20 years, and is being supplied to the local grid to energize the SEDZ through power purchase agreements, which, on average, will reduce up to 29,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.

The projects are eligible for a 20-year benchmark on-grid tariff of 1.0 RMB/kWh based on the former feed-in-tariff program in China. In addition, the Company will provide operations and maintenance services (O&M) to the projects.

RELATED: New efficiency record for mono-crystalline silicon solar cell, says Trina 

“We are pleased to announce the addition of these three DG installations in the SEDZ to our portfolio of DG projects that went online in the 4th quarter of 2015,” commented Mr. Longxing Huang, Vice President and President of the Distributed PV Generation Business Unit of Trina Solar. “The area is a state-level development zone, where rapid industrial expansion and local government’s commitment to diversifying its energy mix continues to boost the prospects of solar installations. In particular, the large number of facilities within the zone that have massive flat roofs makes it particularly well suited for the deployment of DG solar energy.

“We will continue to execute the remaining DG projects within our pipeline in this region in 2016 by leveraging our leading technological expertise and outstanding project development and O&M capabilities. With the grid connection of these projects, along with various other initiatives, we believe our strong finish to the year leaves us particularly well positioned as we head into 2016.”

— Solar Builder magazine

China’s renewable energy portfolio to more than triple next 10 years

China solar power

Cumulative installed capacity for renewables, excluding hydropower, in China will more than triple from 196.3 GW in 2015 to an estimated 608.9 GW by 2025, representing a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 12%, driven primarily by ambitious government targets for onshore wind, according to research and consulting firm GlobalData.

The company’s report states that China has made considerable progress in renewable power over recent years, with cumulative installed capacity, excluding hydropower, burgeoning from just 9 GW in 2007 to 154.6 GW by 2014.

RELATED: China to increase by 7 GW in 2015; U.S. moves to No. 2, says GlobalData 

Chiradeep Chatterjee, GlobalData’s Analyst covering Power, says China’s National Energy Administration is targeting 150 GW of wind capacity by 2017, which will increase to 200 GW, 400 GW, and 1,000 GW by 2020, 2030 and 2050, respectively.

Chatterjee comments: “China’s renewable energy sources, especially wind power, will continue to grow thanks to the government’s supportive policies, as the country seeks to reduce its reliance on coal-based thermal power.

“However, connecting to the national grid represents a significant obstacle, as a number of renewable power projects have been revised or shelved due to the lack of offtake capacity. Laying new cables and creating an extensive smart grid network that would match supply with demand is necessary, but will require huge investment.”

For the full report, head over here. You know you want to.


— Solar Builder magazine

Trina Solar inks strategic financing agreements with CITIC in China

Trina Solar Limited, a leader in PV modules, solutions and services, announced that it signed a five-year strategic cooperation agreement with CITIC Financial Leasing Co., Ltd and a separate three-year strategic cooperation agreement with CITIC Bank Corp. Limited Changzhou Branch on Oct. 28.

TrinasolarUnder the terms of the agreements, as a preferred strategic partner of CITIC, Trina Solar will receive comprehensive, one-stop customized financial products and services including credit facilities of RMB5 billion from CITIC Financial Leasing to support equipment upgrade, downstream projects, as well as an additional credit line of RMB5 billion from CITIC Changzhou for trade financing including short-, medium- and long-term loans. Access to foreign currency loans will also be available.

“We are pleased to build a long-term strategic partnership with CITIC based on our existing cooperative relationship to fuel our global growth and optimize our capital structure,” said Teresa Tan, CFO of Trina Solar. “We believe these arrangements demonstrate CITIC’s continued strong confidence in our current business model and future prospects.”

The two cooperation agreements allow Trina access to CITIC’s diverse financing resources and experienced professional services, as well as enable CITIC to access Trina’s established industry network and participate in our strong growth.

— Solar Builder magazine

Canadian International Trade Tribunal makes call on ‘Chinese Solar PV Module Dumping and Subsidization’ issue

The Canada Borders Services Agency (CBSA) recently reviewed an anti-dumping complaint regarding import practices around Chinese panels in the Canadian market. Based on information provided, the CBSA determined that there was “sufficient evidence that certain panels originating in or exported from China have been dumped and subsidized, and there was a reasonable indication that such actions were causing and threatening to cause injury to the Canadian industry.”

Dumping and subsidy investigations were initiated on December 5, 2014.

On Feb. 3, the Canadian International Trade Tribunal (CITT) determined that there is enough evidence for the Anti-dumping and Subsidizing Case against China to proceed. Pursuant to the import legislation (Special Import Measures Act, subsection 37.1(1)), the CITT found that imports from China have caused or are threatening to cause injury to the Canadian Industry.

On March 5, the CBSA issued its preliminary estimate of margins of dumping, margins of subsidy and provisional duties by exporter with respect to PV modules and laminates produced in China and imported into Canada as part of its ongoing investigation into allegations of product dumping.

Canadian China PV module dumping

On June 5, the CITT heard closing arguments on its inquiry into the question of injury or threat of injury to the domestic industry and has now made order of finding. On July 3, the CITT ruled that dumping and subsidization is threatening to injure the domestic Canadian industry. Final duties, issued in March by the CBSA, will be valid for the next five years.

“The Canadian Solar Industry is happy to see the issue resolved, and that there is now clarity for the industry,” says John Gorman, President and CEO of The Canadian Solar Industries Association (CanSIA). “We will continue to focus on achieving the lowest cost possible, and best value, for Canadian customers.”

— Solar Builder magazine