Fighting smog in China could increase solar power production

China could significantly increase solar power production if it fought smog more aggressively, according to a new study. If emissions from all sectors were eliminated, China could provide up to 128 terawatt hours of additional electricity by 2040.

The air in Beijing in often very polluted, with latest World Health Organisation figures showing that air pollution contributes to around 1.6 million premature deaths per year in China alone.

To tackle the problem and to curb CO2 emissions, China has begun to introduce tough measures to combat air pollution, such as heavy investment in emission-free solar power. It also plans to expand photovoltaic systems even more in the future.

However, air pollution in China is still high – and this smog does not only damage health. It also reduces the solar radiation that reaches the ground, in turn slashing the power output of existing photovoltaic systems.

According to a new study conducted by the ETH Zurich in Switzerland, if emissions from all sectors were eliminated by the year 2040, China could provide 85 to 158 terawatt hours of additional electricity per year with today’s photovoltaic systems and those that will have been built by then.

Solar radiation would increase by an average of 11 per cent nationwide, allowing solar cells to generate one tenth more electricity. The additional production would generate up to 10.1 billion dollars more for the Chinese electricity industry from solar power generation, explained the ETH researchers in a statement.

They also calculated the cost of introducing best-practice emission standards in all sectors of the economy, finding that revenue from increased photovoltaic generation could cover 13 to 17 per cent of the cost of the stringent air pollution control measures necessary to achieve the zero-emission target.

Photo credit: BriYYZ/ CC BY-SA 2.0

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