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Top Story

Air pollution can put a dent in solar power

A National Science Foundation-funded scientist was working on solar energy research in Singapore in 2013 when he encountered an extraordinary cloud of pollution. The city was suddenly engulfed in a foul-smelling cloud of haze. The event, triggered by forest fires in Indonesia and concentrated by unusual wind patterns, lasted two weeks. The researcher wondered about what impact such hazes might have on the output of solar panels in the area. That led to a years-long project to try to quantify just how urban-based solar installations are affected by hazes, which tend to be concentrated in dense cities. Now, the results of that research have just been published and the findings show that these effects are indeed substantial. In some cases it can mean the difference between a successful solar power installation and one that ends up failing to meet expected production levels -- and possibly operates at a loss.

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