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7 June 2021

Weekly data: A devastating 2021 wildfire season would hamper Californian solar power

Data from the 2020 Californian wildfire season shows that increased levels of smoke in the air caused daily solar generation to drop by around one-third.

By Nick Ferris

The start of June brings summer in the Northern Hemisphere: a time of sunny days, beachside holidays and – if you’re lucky – a drop in Covid-19 cases as the climate warms. But for swathes of the world, summer also brings the ever-growing threat of wildfires.

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Already, 2021 has seen 6,800 acres burn across California, with experts warning of a devastating season to come due to the state’s ongoing drought.

Bidwell Bar Bridge in Northern California surrounded by fire
Bidwell Bar Bridge on Lake Oroville in Northern California is surrounded by fire in September 2020. (Photo by Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images)

Last year saw the largest wildfire season ever recorded in the state’s modern history, with a total of 9,639 fires burning 4,397,809 acres, or roughly 4% of the state’s total land mass. Some 31 people were killed, and 10,000 structures were destroyed at a cost of over $12bn in damages.

So great was the smoke emitted by these fires that the first two weeks of September saw average solar-powered electricity generation in the state decline 30% from the July average. The drop was caused by the massive rise in airborne particulates of 2.5 micrometers or smaller (PM2.5), which reduce the amount of sunlight that reaches PV panels.

The typical daily maximum PM2.5 rate of 30-100 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m3) recorded in the state last summer shot up to nearly 1,500 µg/m3 at the start of September.

In July, daily solar generation averaged 113 GWh. Solar generation then declined as massive wildfires broke out in August, reaching a low of 68 GWh on 22 August before returning to around 100 GWh at the end of the month. It then fell to 50 GWh on 11 September as PM2.5 smoke pollution increased again following yet more wildfires, whose smoke was blown across the state.

By the end of September, data from the Global Fires Emissions Database suggested the emissions impact of fires in 2020 had been more than 25% higher than the state’s annual emissions from fossil fuels.

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Wind Power Market seeing increased risk and disruption

The wind power market has grown at a CAGR of 14% between 2010 and 2021 to reach 830 GW by end of 2021. This has largely been possible due to favourable government policies that have provided incentives to the sector. This has led to an increase in the share of wind in the capacity mix, going from a miniscule 4% in 2010 to 10% in 2021. This is further set to rise to 15% by 2030. However, the recent commodity price increase has hit the sector hard, increasing risks for wind turbine manufacturers and project developers, and the Russia-Ukraine crisis has caused further price increase and supply chain disruption. In light of this, GlobalData has identified which countries are expected to add the majority of wind power capacity out to 2030. Get ahead and download this whitepaper for more details on the current state of the Wind Power Market.
by GlobalData
Enter your details here to receive your free Report.

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