Warmer temps could mean less solar panel efficiency

Solar panels
Image by Grégory ROOSE from Pixabay

Combatting climate change will become increasingly difficult as the globe warms

Last month, MIT researchers Ian Peters and Tonio Buonassisi presented a study forecasting that global warming will negatively impact the effectiveness of solar photovoltaic (PV) cells. The power output generated by PV, according to the scientists, drops by 0.45% for every degree of increased temperature.

Put simply, solar panels work by allowing the sunlight to set electrons inside a photovoltaic cell loose from atoms, which creates an electric current. One solar panel includes many small photovoltaic cells, and the increase in temperature hampers this process. This happens due to a “reduction of the open-circuit voltage with increasing temperature,” the researchers suggest. Read the complete study here.

But don’t stop now!

Although the research might indicate that solar energy has more limits than thought before, particularly concerning the warming climate, the benefits of the technology and how it combats climate change, still outshine the downsides.

According to Andrius Terskovas, Head of Business Development at Sun Investment Group, an investment management and development company focused on solar energy assets, it is essential to stay on track in changing fossil-fuel-generated energy with the power produced by means that do not contribute to climate change.

“Even though the study predicts a decline in solar panel performance triggered by the rising temperatures, this just calls for a wider and faster adoption of renewable energy globally,” said Terskovas.

“Slowing down the global switch to renewable energy is not an option, as moving on from fossil fuel-generated energy is an urgent necessity. There is enough evidence to show the unsustainability of energy created by non-renewable energy sources. We need more, not less solar and other renewable energy plants all across the globe if we are to ever reach the zero-emission goals and curtail the negative human impact on our planet.”

Currently, the solar energy market shows no signs of slowing down. The global market for photovoltaics, according to one market study, is estimated to be at almost 54 billion in 2018, while it is projected to hit more than 333 billion by 2026, with a compound annual growth rate of 25%.

Regional differences in lower solar performance

Not every region will be affected equally by warming temperatures. The study states that Southern United States, Southern Africa, and Central Asia will be among the most impacted areas. Nevertheless, according to Terskovas, it is reasonable to believe the growing PV industry will be able to find solutions to the heat-related decrease in efficiency.

“As the new research hints, solar panels might become more effective in the future due to possible new findings in materials science,” added Terskovas.

“It is safe to say that with the growth of the global solar power market, significantly more money will be invested in developing technological solutions that would make the process of generating energy via solar methods considerably more efficient than they are today,” he said.

“Studies like this, hopefully, will act as catalysts for companies to develop global warming-proof technology. On the other hand, there already are solar power plants operating in extremely hot climates and able to deliver reliable renewable energy. A good example is Noor Abu Dhabi, a recently switched on, desert-located solar power plant in the United Arab Emirates with a capacity of 1.117 GW.”

This article is part of Renewable Energy World’s contribution to Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 220 news outlets to strengthen coverage of the climate story.  

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Renewable Energy World's content team members help deliver the most comprehensive news coverage of the renewable energy industries. Based in the U.S., the UK, and South Africa, the team is comprised of editors from Clarion Energy's myriad of publications that cover the global energy industry.

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