Climate change extremes and photovoltaic power output


Sustainable development requires climate change mitigation and thereby a fast energy transition to renewables. However, climate change may affect renewable power outputs by enhancing the weather variability and making extreme conditions more frequent. High temperature or clouds, for example, can lead to poorer photovoltaic (PV) power outputs. Here, we assess global changes in the frequency of warm and cloudy conditions that lead to very low PV power outputs. Using simulations from global climate models (RCP4.5 and RCP8.5), we show that summer days with very low PV power outputs are expected to double in the Arabian Peninsula by mid-century but could be reduced by half in southern Europe over the same period, even under a moderate-emission scenario. Changes for winter, either enhancing or mitigating the PV power intermittency, are projected to be less striking, at least in low- and mid-latitude regions. Our results present valuable information for energy planners to compensate for the effects of future weather variability.

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Fig. 1: Future changes in solar potential for summer are on average moderate worldwide.
Fig. 2: Future changes in solar potential for winter are only relevant at high latitudes.
Fig. 3: Changes in PV power intermittency for summer are expected to be stronger in Europe and the Arabian Peninsula.
Fig. 4: Changes in the PV power intermittency are mainly driven by changes in the frequency of cloudy days.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon request. The data from the GCMs were obtained from the World Climate Research Programme’s Working Group for CMIP5 (

Code availability

The code generated during the current study is available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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We acknowledge the support of FONDECYT (Preis 1191932) and CORFO (Preis 19BP-117358, 18BPCR-89100 and 18BPE-93920). A.D. was supported by the JST CREST grant number JPMJCR15K4. We also thank the World Climate Research Programme’s Working Group on Coupled Modelling, which is responsible for CMIP, and we thank the climate modelling groups used in this study for producing and making available their model outputs.

Author information




S.F., R.R.C. and R.B.J. conceived and designed the experiments. S.F., R.R.C. and A.D. analysed the data. S.F., R.R.C. and R.B.J. wrote the paper.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Raúl R. Cordero.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Peer review information Nature Sustainability thanks Jose Bilbao and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary Figs. 1–12, Table 1 and references.

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Feron, S., Cordero, R.R., Damiani, A. et al. Climate change extremes and photovoltaic power output. Nat Sustain (2020).

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