The dramatic drops in air pollution caused by restrictions imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic could help boost the UAE’s solar power generation, with a number of countries in Europe having already posted record outputs.
“With flights grounded, schools and universities closed and many people working from home, this has resulted in less air traffic and cars on the road and has led to fewer pollutants in the air,” said Yousif Al Ali, executive director of clean energy at Masdar, told the National.
“In principle, having less pollution in the air will have a minor increase in solar power generation. This will happen in cities due to two reasons: the improvement of the irradiation received by solar panels and the reduction of the soiling on the surface of the photovoltaic panels and concentrated solar power mirrors.”
Recent data from the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi indicates nitrogen dioxide levels are down 50 percent on their seasonal average, after the UAE government introduced restrictions on travel and other activities to limit the spread of coronavirus.
Reduced air pollution also means solar panels don’t need to be cleaned so often, reducing maintenance costs and boosting power generation, Al Ali said. However, as the effect “is so small, it is difficult to quantify the impact that cleaner air would have on the generation of solar power without comparative historical data,” he cautioned.
Last month, the UK set a peak record for solar power generation, which reached 9.68GW on April 20, meeting almost 30 percent of UK electricity demand. Germany and Spain have also reported peak generation records during the pandemic.
Renewables will be the “most resilient” energy source during COVID-19 lockdown measures, according to the International Energy Agency, which is predicting global renewable energy generation will rise almost 5 percent this year.