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India’s air pollution impacts solar performance

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India’s solar power industry is being significantly impacted by poor air quality during the Winter months, according to recent data from Solargis.

In January 2024 Northern India experienced the poorest air quality in decades, with some localities facing persistent fog or smog lasting up to 20 days, leading to a drop in Global Horizontal Irradiance (the total irradiance from the Sun on a horizontal surface on Earth) of between 30-50%, compared to long term averages. According to the data this is a long term-trend in Northern India, with irradiance drops occurring in each of the last five winters.

In addition to this recurring pattern of Winter underperformance in the North, operators in central India have faced a long-term trend of below average irradiance, stretching back over the past 6 years.

To help the industry better understand and mitigate the impact of these resource challenges, the data platform is working with a number of leading solar PV firms in India, including candi solar, which has recognised the need for more dependable sources of irradiance data to pinpoint and address underperformance.

Chris Brosz, Head of Engineering at candi solar said:

“We’ve grappled with identifying the root causes of underperformance for our projects in India and recognized the need for accurate yield information. Relying on robust and high-quality data has enabled us to optimize our project performance and build a scalable platform.”

Avik Mitra, Business Account Manager at Solargis said:

“There is an increasing need for Indian operators to move beyond hourly Typical Meteorological Year (TMY) data and towards higher resolution sub-hourly Time Series for more reliable performance evaluation. This allows analysis of solar power production in extreme weather, like severe fog and smog, and enhances understanding of PV plant behaviour.”

As a result of the pollution problems, the Indian market has moved from 100% solar tenders to hybrid tenders incorporating both battery energy storage and wind energy, demanding a better understanding of how performance will be influenced by changing weather patterns.

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