India’s solar power production hit by air pollution

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A recent study indicates that due to heavy air pollution, India suffers an estimated loss of US$245-835 million every year. Improved air quality will in turn improve the performance of solar power projects, as reported by Mongabay-India. Prospects for India to meet the target of producing 100 gigawatts of solar power in 2022 have dimmed due to high levels of air pollution.

Energy production and emissions are also closely linked to health. The International Energy Agency has reported that 6.5 million deaths occur each year due to air pollution. “The production and use of energy are by far the largest man-made sources of air pollutants,” says the IEA.

The study carried out by IIT Delhi and published in Environmental Research Letters, calculates that between 2001 and 2018, India lost 29% of its solar energy potential due to air pollution, which is equivalent to a annual loss of 835 million US dollars. By March this year, India had only reached half of its installed solar capacity of 50 gigawatts, according to research group Mercom India.

If India can reduce its air pollution problem, it will not only improve the performance of its solar power projects and accelerate India’s clean energy transition, but also save crucial resources such as land, the study found. With more efficient performance of solar power projects, India could meet its targets with less installation capacity, which translates into less land requirements for large-scale solar parks, which reduces the risks of conflicts with local communities and the environment.

According to the researchers who conducted the study, cleaner air and better performance of solar power projects would also mean that India could save a crucial resource like land through which conflicts with communities and the environment could also be avoided. Solar resource assessment should be incorporated into the cost-benefit analysis of any air pollution mitigation plan in India.

Mongabay-India reports that in 2015, India set a target of installing 175 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy projects, including 100 GW of solar power by 2022. So far, India reached an installed capacity of 50.77 GW. The Indian government maintains that the country is on track to achieve the target as many projects are under construction and would be commissioned soon. Indeed, driven by the rapid progress of its renewable energy target, India is now pursuing a target of 450 GW of renewable energy projects, including approximately 280 GW of solar projects.

The study noted that “solar energy loss due to environmental factors such as air pollution is not properly accounted for in the assessment of renewable energy resources” and stated, ” successful implementation of the National Clean Air Program (NCAP) and full mitigation of household emissions through cleaner domestic fuel supply and rural electrification would enable India to generate a surplus of electricity of 6-16 TWh per year from the installed capacity of existing solar energy in 2018… This translates into an economic benefit of 325-845 million dollars per year, which is equivalent to the costs of implementation implementation of these social programs. Mitigation of air pollution would therefore accelerate India’s progress towards its solar energy goal with less installed capacity, thus avoiding additional expenditure for expansion. infrastructure and solar energy.

He points out that aerosols in the atmosphere attenuate incoming solar radiation by scattering and absorption and this is called the “atmospheric attenuation effect”. In addition, aerosols often settle on panel surfaces and affect their PV performance, the so-called “soiling effect”.

Researchers at IIT Delhi have estimated the surplus solar power India would be able to generate and the economic benefits it could reap if air pollution levels in the country were successfully reduced by strictly applying some of the major mitigation policies announced by the Indian government or adhering to the air quality standards of the World Health Organization (WHO). They said India’s solar power target can be met on time, even earlier, if the current installation trend is followed along with the air pollution mitigation plans.

According to the study, the economic benefit of reducing air pollution in terms of excess solar power generation is equivalent to the current cost of implementing major air pollution mitigation policies and , therefore, solar resource assessment should be incorporated into the conduct of the study. cost-benefit analysis of any air pollution mitigation plan in India.

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