Oct 1, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Pollution from California's wildfires cuts solar power generation

Screenshot from EIA's report on wildfires and solar generation
Screenshot from EIA's report on wildfires and solar generation

From the apocalypse files: A new Energy Information Administration analysis shows that pollution from California's dreadful wildfires has substantially curtailed solar power generation in the state.

Why it matters: Everything's connected. The growing wildfires in California — a problem worsened in part by global warming — create complications for one of the power sources that can help fight climate change.

  • And as Energy Impact Partners' Shayle Kann tweeted, it's "especially bad news given that wildfire risk is highest in hot weather, when power demand peaks and you need solar the most."

How it works: Smoke from the fires contains fine particulate matter, a highly dangerous respiratory pollutant that also cuts the amount of sunlight reaching solar panels.

By the numbers: Average utility-scale solar generation in California during the first two weeks of September declined by nearly 30% compared to July's averages, EIA said.

(The figures apply to solar generation in the jurisdiction of the California Independent System Operator, the grid manager for almost all of the state.)

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