Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Climate change extremes and photovoltaic power output

Abstract

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.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

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 (https://esgf-node.llnl.gov/).

Code availability

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

References

  1. 1.

    Feron, S., Cordero, R. R. & Labbe, F. Rural electrification efforts based on off-grid photovoltaic systems in the Andean region: comparative assessment of their sustainability. Sustainability 9, 1825 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Renewables 2018: Market Analysis and Forecast from 2018 to 2023 (International Energy Agency, 2018); https://www.iea.org/renewables2018/power/

  3. 3.

    Li, X., Mauzerall, D. L. & Bergin, M. H. Global reduction of solar power generation efficiency due to aerosols and panel soiling. Nat. Sustain. 3, 720–727 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Cordero, R. R. et al. Effects of soiling on photovoltaic (PV) modules in the Atacama Desert. Sci. Rep. 8, 13943 (2018).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Costa, S. C., Diniz, A. S. A. & Kazmerski, L. L. Dust and soiling issues and impacts relating to solar energy systems: literature review update for 2012–2015. Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev. 63, 33–61 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Lelieveld, J. et al. Global air pollution crossroads over the Mediterranean. Science 298, 794–799 (2002).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Gutiérrez, C. et al. Future evolution of surface solar radiation and photovoltaic potential in Europe: investigating the role of aerosols. Environ. Res. Lett. 15, 034035 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Gil, V., Gaertner, M. A., Gutierrez, C. & Losada, T. Impact of climate change on solar irradiation and variability over the Iberian Peninsula using regional climate models. Int. J. Climatol. 39, 1733–1747 (2019).

    Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Chen, S. A., Vishwanath, A., Sathe, S. & Kalyanaraman, S. Shedding light on the performance of solar panels: a data-driven view. SIGKDD Explor. 17, 24–36 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Panagea, I. S., Tsanis, I. K., Koutroulis, A. G. & Grillakis, M. G. Climate change impact on photovoltaic energy output: the case of Greece. Adv. Meteorol. 2014, 264506 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Chaichan, M. T. & Kazem, H. A. Experimental analysis of solar intensity on photovoltaic in hot and humid weather conditions. Int. J. Sci. Eng. Res. 7, 91–96 (2016).

    Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Chenni, R., Makhlouf, M., Kerbache, T. & Bouzid, A. A detailed modeling method for photovoltaic cells. Energy 32, 1724–1730 (2007).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    van Ruijven, B. J., De Cian, E. & Sue, I. Wing amplification of future energy demand growth due to climate change. Nat. Commun. 10, 2762 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Wild, M., Folini, D., Henschel, F., Fischer, N. & Müller, B. Projections of long-term changes in solar radiation based on CMIP5 climate models and their influence on energy yields of photovoltaic systems. Sol. Energy 116, 12–24 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Crook, J. A., Jones, L. A., Forster, P. M. & Crook, R. Climate change impacts on future photovoltaic and concentrated solar power energy output. Energy Environ. Sci. 4, 3101–3109 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Gaetani, M. et al. The near future availability of photovoltaic energy in Europe and Africa in climate–aerosol modeling experiments. Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev. 38, 706–716 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Tang, C. et al. Numerical simulation of surface solar radiation over southern Africa. Part 1: evaluation of regional and global climate models. Clim. Dyn. 52, 457–477 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Soares, P. M., Brito, M. C. & Careto, J. A. Persistence of the high solar potential in Africa in a changing climate. Environ. Res. Lett. 14, 124036 (2019).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Tang, C. et al. Numerical simulation of surface solar radiation over southern Africa. Part 2: projections of regional and global climate models. Clim. Dyn. 53, 2197–2227 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Feron, S. et al. Observations and projections of heat waves in South America. Sci. Rep. 9, 8173 (2019).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Cowan, T. et al. More frequent, longer, and hotter heat waves for Australia in the twenty-first century. J. Clim. 27, 5851–5871 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Bichet, A. et al. Potential impact of climate change on solar resource in Africa for photovoltaic energy: analyses from CORDEX-AFRICA climate experiments. Environ. Res. Lett. 14, 124039 (2019).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Jerez, S. et al. The impact of climate change on photovoltaic power generation in Europe. Nat. Commun. 6, 10014 (2015).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Jerez, S. et al. Future changes, or lack thereof, in the temporal variability of the combined wind-plus-solar power production in Europe. Renew. Energy 139, 251–260 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Ravestein, P., Van der Schrier, G., Haarsma, R., Scheele, R. & Van den Broek, M. Vulnerability of European intermittent renewable energy supply to climate change and climate variability. Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev. 97, 497–508 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Mavromatakis, F. et al. Modeling the photovoltaic potential of a site. Renew. Energy 35, 1387–1390 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Taylor, K. E., Stouffer, R. J. & Meehl, G. A. An overview of CMIP5 and the experiment design. Bull. Am. Meteorol. 93, 485–498 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Thomson, A. M. et al. RCP4.5: a pathway for stabilization of radiative forcing by 2100. Clim. Change 109, 77–94 (2011).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Huld, T. et al. in The Availability of Renewable Energies in a Changing Africa Report No. EUR 25980 EN (European Commission, 2013); https://doi.org/10.2790/88194

  30. 30.

    Boé, J., Somot, S., Corre, L. & Nabat, P. Large discrepancies in summer climate change over Europe as projected by global and regional climate models: causes and consequences. Clim. Dyn. 54, 2981–3002 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Biasutti, M. Forced Sahel rainfall trends in the CMIP5 archive. Geophys. Res. Atmos. 118, 1613–1623 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Vihma, T. et al. The atmospheric role in the Arctic water cycle: a review on processes, past and future changes, and their impacts. J. Geophys. Res. 121, 586–620 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Abujarad, S. Y., Mustafa, M. W. & Jamian, J. J. Recent approaches of unit commitment in the presence of intermittent renewable energy resources: a review. Renew. Sustain. Energy Rev. 70, 215–223 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Kittner, N., Lill, F. & Kammen, D. M. Energy storage deployment and innovation for the clean energy transition. Nat. Energy 2, 17125 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Ruosteenoja, K., Räisänen, P., Devraj, S., Garud, S. S. & Lindfors, A. V. Future changes in incident surface solar radiation and contributing factors in India in CMIP5 climate model simulations. J. Appl. Meteorol. Clim. 58, 19–35 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    Merlone, A. et al. Temperature extreme records: World Meteorological Organization metrological and meteorological evaluation of the 54.0 °C observations in Mitribah, Kuwait and Turbat, Pakistan in 2016/2017. Int. J. Climatol. 39, 5154–5169 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. 37.

    Lelieveld, J. et al. Strongly increasing heat extremes in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in the 21st century. Clim. Change 137, 245–260 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. 38.

    Sutanto, S. J., Vitolo, C., Di Napoli, C., D’Andrea, M. & Van Lanen, H. A. Heatwaves, droughts, and fires: exploring compound and cascading dry hazards at the pan-European scale. Environ. Int. 134, 105276 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. 39.

    Tonui, J. K. & Tripanagnostopoulos, Y. Performance improvement of PV/T solar collectors with natural air flow operation. Sol. Energy 82, 1–12 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. 40.

    Pérez, J. C., González, A., Díaz, J. P., Expósito, F. J. & Felipe, J. Climate change impact on future photovoltaic resource potential in an orographically complex archipelago, the Canary Islands. Renew. Energy 133, 749–759 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. 41.

    Dee, D. P. et al. ERA-Interim reanalysis: configuration and performance of the data assimilation system. Q. J. R. Meteorol. Soc. 137, 553–597 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. 42.

    Field, C. B., Barros, V., Stocker, T. F. & Dahe, Q. (eds) Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation: Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2012).

  43. 43.

    Hunter, J. D. Matplotlib: a 2D graphics environment. Comput. Sci. Eng. 9, 90–95 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

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

Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

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.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

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

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

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

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Feron, S., Cordero, R.R., Damiani, A. et al. Climate change extremes and photovoltaic power output. Nat Sustain 4, 270–276 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-020-00643-w

Download citation

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing