Oct 23, 2017

China’s pollution is getting in the way of its solar energy goals

Illustration: Egan Jimenez / Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs

Although China is increasing its solar energy supply, air pollution is blocking sunlight and reducing energy output in China, according to a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The study is the first to calculate how much aerosols in the atmosphere are reducing China's solar energy generating efficiency.

Why it matters: China has set a goal of meeting 10% of the country's electricity needs with solar by 2030, and this shows a potentially intractable obstacle to meeting that milestone. On the flip side, it could encourage countries with emerging solar power to cut emissions or refocus solar panel efforts to more sparsely populated or remote areas, where pollution is less severe.

Magnitude of the problem:

  • The study shows that in the northern and eastern parts of the country, which are the most polluted, aerosol pollution is reducing solar electricity generation potential by as much as 35% per day. (Burning fossil fuels increases aerosol concentrations in the atmosphere.)
  • In the winter, when pollution is worst, air pollution in the area is blocking about 20% of sunlight from reaching solar panel arrays.

What's next: The researchers are looking to analyze other regions, including India also which suffers greatly from air pollution.

The study measured irradiance from the sun and analyzed aerosol components and clouds in the atmosphere using a solar photovoltaic performance model and NASA satellite data. They ran 9 separate analyses from 2003 to 2014 over all of China.

Go deeper

World coronavirus updates: Confirmed cases top 1 million

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

Novel coronavirus infections have hit the 1 million mark after "near exponential growth" that's reached "almost every country," World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Thursday.

The big picture: The global death toll exceeded 50,000 on Thursday, per Johns Hopkins data. Italy has reported nearly 14,000 deaths. Governments around the world have introduced public health and economic measures to try and curb the impact of the virus.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 6 mins ago - Health

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 6 p.m. ET: 1,007,997 — Total deaths: 52,771 — Total recoveries: 210,055Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 6 p.m. ET: 236,339 — Total deaths: 5,648 — Total recoveries: 8,861Map.
  3. 2020 update: The Democratic National Committee said its July convention will be postponed until August because of the coronavirus.
  4. Jobs latest: The coronavirus unemployment numbers are like a natural disaster hitting every state
  5. Public health latest: FDA allows blood donations from gay men after 3-month waiting period, citing "urgent need."
  6. U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt: Navy removes captain of aircraft carrier who sounded alarm about coronavirus.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Judge declines to delay Wisconsin April 7 primary, extends absentee deadline

Photo: Darren Hauck/Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday declined to delay Wisconsin's April 7 primary election, saying he doesn't have the authority to do so.

Why it matters: Wisconsin is the only state scheduled to vote next Tuesday that has not yet delayed its primary.