Different photovoltaic power potential variations in East and West China

Chen, Xie, Zhou, Chaohui, Tian, Zhiyong, Mao, Hongzhi, Luo, Yongqiang, Sun, Deyu, Fan, Jianhua, Jiang, Liguang, Deng, Jie and Rosen, Marc A. (2023) Different photovoltaic power potential variations in East and West China. Applied Energy, 351, p. 121846. ISSN (print) 0306-2619


Photovoltaic (PV) technology can help reduce carbon emissions significantly, but its benefits may be affected by climate change. Few studies have reported on the impact of climate change on the spatial and temporal distribution of solar energy in China based on the latest Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6 (CMIP6) models, and few have explored the rooftop PV potential. In this study, 16 CMIP6 models are used for evaluation of the inter-annual and seasonal changes of solar irradiance and PV capacity factor under low (SSP1–2.6), medium (SSP2–4.5) and high (SSP5–8.5) greenhouse gas emission scenarios. The effects on the variation of solar irradiance of three factors are examined: clouds, aerosol optical thickness (AOT) and specific humidity. Furthermore, the future power generation potential of rooftop PV is investigated. It is found that the solar irradiance exhibits an upward trend on national level under all the future scenarios, especially for the SSP1–2.6 scenario, with an increasing rate of 1.4 W m−2 decade−1, mainly due to a reduction in AOT. Solar irradiance increases notably in southeast China while increases little in west China, and the level for 2051–2060 remains lower than that for 1960–2014. The PV capacity factor increases in southeast China with increasing solar irradiance, with a maximum increase of about 4% compared to the average PV CF for 1960–2014 and the highest increasing rate being 0.37% decade−1. In addition, to achieve the projected national distributed PV power generation level, >70% of the effective rooftop area needs to be utilized in 2050. This study hopes to enhance understanding of the impact of climate change on solar energy and provide recommendations for future PV planning to better achieve the long-term planetary temperature goal set by the Paris Agreement.

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