Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Atmospheric 'Sunshade' Could Reduce Solar Power Generation

Date:
March 16, 2009
Source:
National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration
Summary:
The concept of delaying global warming by adding particles into the upper atmosphere to cool the climate could unintentionally reduce peak electricity generated by large solar power plants by as much as one-fifth, according to a new study.

The world's largest solar power facility, located near Kramer Junction, Calif., consists of five Solar Electric Generating Stations and covers more than 1,000 acres.
Credit: Department of Energy/National Renewable Energy Laboratory

The concept of delaying global warming by adding particles into the upper atmosphere to cool the climate could unintentionally reduce peak electricity generated by large solar power plants by as much as one-fifth, according to a new NOAA study.

“Injecting particles into the stratosphere could have unintended consequences for one alternative energy source expected to play a role in the transition away from fossil fuels,” said author Daniel Murphy, a scientist at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo.

The Earth is heating up as fossil-fuel burning produces carbon dioxide, the primary heat-trapping gas responsible for man-made climate change. To counteract the effect, some geoengineering proposals are designed to slow global warming by shading the Earth from sunlight.

Among the ideas being explored is injecting small particles into the upper atmosphere to produce a climate cooling similar to that of large volcanic eruptions, such as Mt. Pinatubo’s in 1991. Airborne sulfur hovering in the stratosphere cooled the Earth for about two years following that eruption.

Murphy found that particles in the stratosphere reduce the amount and change the nature of the sunlight that strikes the Earth. Though a fraction of the incoming sunlight bounces back to space (the cooling effect), a much larger amount becomes diffuse, or scattered, light.

On average, for every watt of sunlight the particles reflect away from the Earth, another three watts of direct sunlight are converted to diffuse sunlight. Large power-generating solar plants that concentrate sunlight for maximum efficiency depend solely on direct sunlight and cannot use diffuse light.

Murphy verified his calculations using long-term NOAA observations of direct and diffuse sunlight before and after the 1991 eruption.

After the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo, peak power output of Solar Electric Generating Stations in California, the largest collective of solar power plants in the world, fell by up to 20 percent, even though the stratospheric particles from the eruption reduced total sunlight that year by less than 3 percent.

“The sensitivity of concentrating solar systems to stratospheric particles may seem surprising,” said Murphy. “But because these systems use only direct sunlight, increasing stratospheric particles has a disproportionately large effect on them.”

Nine Solar Electric Generating Stations operate in California and more are running or are under construction elsewhere in the world. In sunny locations such systems, which use curved mirrors or other concentrating devices, generate electricity at a lower cost than conventional photovoltaic, or solar, cells.

Flat photovoltaic and hot water panels, commonly seen on household roofs, use both diffuse and direct sunlight. Their energy output would decline much less than that from concentrating systems.

Even low-tech measures to balance a home’s energy, such as south-facing windows for winter heat and overhangs for summer shade, would be less effective if direct sunlight is reduced.

The findings recently appeared in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Daniel M. Murphy. Effect of Stratospheric Aerosols on Direct Sunlight and Implications for Concentrating Solar Power. Environmental Science & Technology, 2009; 090311080700076 DOI: 10.1021/es802206b

Cite This Page:

National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration. "Atmospheric 'Sunshade' Could Reduce Solar Power Generation." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 March 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090311124022.htm>.
National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration. (2009, March 16). Atmospheric 'Sunshade' Could Reduce Solar Power Generation. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090311124022.htm
National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration. "Atmospheric 'Sunshade' Could Reduce Solar Power Generation." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090311124022.htm (accessed September 2, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Iceland Lowers Aviation Alert on Volcano

Iceland Lowers Aviation Alert on Volcano

AFP (Sep. 1, 2014) Iceland has lowered its aviation alert on its largest volcano after a fresh eruption on a nearby lava field prompted authorities to enforce a flight ban for several hours. Duration: 01:07 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Lightning Hurts 3 on NYC Beach

Lightning Hurts 3 on NYC Beach

AP (Sep. 1, 2014) A lightning strike injured three people on a New York City beach on Sunday. The storms also delayed flights and interrupted play at the US Open tennis tournament. (Sept. 1) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Thailand Totters Towards Waste Crisis

Thailand Totters Towards Waste Crisis

AFP (Sep. 1, 2014) Fears are mounting in Bangkok that poor planning and lax law enforcement are tipping Thailand towards a waste crisis. Duration: 01:21 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Melting Ice Shelves Drive Rapid Antarctic Sea Level Rise

Melting Ice Shelves Drive Rapid Antarctic Sea Level Rise

Newsy (Sep. 1, 2014) A study of almost 20 years' worth of satellite images shows Antarctic sea levels are on the rise as ice shelves continue to melt. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins