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Smoke from wildfires has reduced the amount of energy that solar panels can generate in southern Alberta this year, as particulate matter pollution prevents more sunlight from reaching the panels.
Residents in Calgary, for example, report as much as a two-thirds decline in solar power generation of their rooftop installations, also due to the smoke from wildfires blocking the sun, Dave Dormer of CTVNewsCalgary.ca reports.
The city of Calgary said in a statement to CTV News that in July 2021 solar power “output was lower by 14 per cent compared to the four-year average”.
Wildfires are not the only reason for lower power generation, but may have contributed to the decline in solar output, the city says. Other reasons include a lack of rain last month and higher temperatures during the day. Rain typically acts as a natural way to clean solar panels, while high temperatures reduce the efficiency of the solar panel generation.
The wildfire problem of solar panels is not limited to southern Alberta, though.
Last year in August and September, the wildfires raging in California reduced the average solar-powered electricity generation by almost 30 percent, according to figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
The small, airborne particulate matter particles in wildfire smoke reduced the amount of sunlight that reaches solar panels, decreasing solar-powered electricity generation, the EIA noted.
In July 2020, daily solar-powered electricity generation averaged 113 gigawatthours (GWh) for the entire month. Daily solar-powered generation began declining as large wildfires broke out in mid-August, reaching a low of 68 GWh on August 22 before returning to around 100 GWh by the end of the month. Solar-powered generation began declining again as wildfire activity rose in September, falling as low as 50 GWh on September 11 as particulate matter smoke pollution increased, the EIA said.
This year, California’s clean power generation is being challenged not only by the massive wildfires. The state had to shut down earlier this month the Hyatt Power Plant at Lake Oroville after water levels hit a record-low, in a first such move since the hydroelectric plant became operational in the 1960s.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com