China’s Deadly Air Pollution Is Also Costing Billions in Solar Efficiency

| July 11, 2019

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China is leading the way on renewable energy, having installed half the world's solar panels in 2017. But its transformative economic growth fueled by coal and other fossil fuels and its outsized manufacturing sector have coughed up so much air pollution that it has blocked adequate sunlight from reaching its solar panels, according to a new study published this week in Nature Energy. The researchers behind the study analyzed incoming sunlight at 119 different points around China from 1960 to 2015. They found that sunlight dimmed over the 55-year span and that average solar generation declined 11 to 15 percent during that time. If China could clean up its air enough to revert back to the air quality it had in 1960, it could yield a 12 to 13 percent increase in electricity production and save billions each year. The study projects that cleaner air would save $5 to $7 billion in 2030, according to CNET. In economic terms, that 11 to 15 percent decline in solar output cost China the equivalent of $1.9 billion in 2016, which is enough to have powered 1.3 million homes in the U.S. for one year, as Interesting Engineering reported.

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