Global warming will hit solar panel performance

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A study by scientists at Massachussetts Institute of Technology has considered the potential negative effect of rising global temperatures on solar panel performance.

The researchers calculated that for each degree of global temperature rise, solar modules could lose around 0.45% of output, although they stressed the figure was a representative number.

The calculations were made using the ‘representative concentration pathway 4.5’ warming scenario published by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which envisages CO2 emissions peaking in 2040 for a global average temperature rise of 1.8 degrees Kelvin by 2100.

Higher temperatures, bigger losses

Although the performance of solar modules would fall everywhere, the worst affected areas would be in the southern United States, southern Africa and central Asia, according to the study.

“We project median reductions in annual energy output of 15 kWh per kWp [of solar system capacity], with reductions up to 50 kWh per kWp in some areas,” wrote the researchers.

The report’s authors said innovative solar module materials and new panel architectures may drive stronger resistance to high temperatures. “For example, materials with a higher band gap such as cadmium telluride have a significantly smaller drop in efficiency,” the paper noted.

A separate report recently stated only an energy system based entirely on zero carbon generation could help keep the rise in global temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius, and thus avoid a climate catastrophe.

“The transition in all sectors will reduce the annual greenhouse gas emissions in the energy sector continuously, from roughly 30 GtCO2-eq [gigatons of carbon equivalent] in 2015 to zero by 2050,” that study claimed.