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Smog over Beijing in 2015

Chinese pollution dramatically reducing solar power output

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Much has been written recently about China’s high-speed implementation of solar energy production, with predicted installations in 2017 alone capable of dealing with half total global demand. But breaking research from Princeton University suggests China’s air pollution is having a major impact on potential output.

A report published last year by the University of Beijing concluded that coal combustion in China contributed to 366,000 premature deaths in 2013 alone, and the drive to generate solar power is part of a wider initiative to replace coal as an electricity source. However, efforts to generate solar power are now being hindered by pollution particles in the sky above China, known as “aerosols”, which researchers claim is reducing potential solar energy generation by as much as 35%.

Reports in the past have focussed primarily on the effect of cloud cover on solar photovoltaic performance. This is the first time the effect of atmospheric pollution has been considered in isolation, and the findings, spanning 2003-2014, give major cause for concern.


  1. Clean Technica:
    Severe Chinese Air Pollution Cuts Solar Energy Potential As Much As 35%.

  2. Princeton University:
    Air Pollution Cuts Solar Energy Potential in China.


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