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Projections of long-term changes in solar radiation based on CMIP5 climate models and their influence on energy yields of photovoltaic systems

: Wild, M.; Folini, D.; Henschel, F.; Müller, B.

Postprint urn:nbn:de:0011-n-3455035 (687 KByte PDF)
MD5 Fingerprint: 564b4d90666c4eb0138cd8fed08a2b8a
Created on: 9.7.2015

Solar energy 116 (2015), pp.12-24
ISSN: 0038-092X
ISSN: 0375-9865
Journal Article, Electronic Publication
Fraunhofer ISE ()
Photovoltaische Module; Systeme und Zuverlässigkeit; Photovoltaische Module und Kraftwerke; Energiesystemanalyse; Servicebereiche; Photovoltaische Kraftwerke; Modellierung von Energieversorgungsszenarien; Qualitätssicherung PV-Kraftwerke; dimming and brightening; radiation changes; change and model projections; PV

Traditionally, for the planning and assessment of solar energy systems, the amount of solar radiation (sunlight) incident on the Earth’s surface is assumed to be constant over the years. However, with changing climate and air pollution levels, solar resources may no longer be stable over time and undergo substantial decadal changes. Observational records covering the past decades confirm long-term changes in this quantity. Here we examine how the latest generation of climate models used for the 5th IPCC report projects potential changes in surface solar radiation over the coming decades, and how this may affect, in combination with the expected greenhouse warming, solar power output from photovoltaic (PV) systems. For this purpose, projections up to the mid 21st century from 39 state of the art climate models from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) are analysed globally and for selected key regions with major solar power production capacity. The large model ensemble allows to assess the degree of consistency of their projections. Models are largely consistent in the sign of the projected changes in solar radiation under cloud-free conditions as well as surface temperatures over most of the globe, while still reasonably consistent over a considerable part of the globe in the sign of changes in cloudiness and associated changes in solar radiation. A first order estimate of the impact of solar radiation and temperature changes on energy yields of PV systems under the RPC8.5 scenario indicates statistically significant decreases in PV outputs in large parts of the world, but notable exceptions with positive trends in large parts of Europe, South-East of North America and the South-East of China. Projected changes between 2006 and 2049 under the RCP8.5 scenario overall are on the order of 1%/decade for horizontal planes, but may be larger for tilted or tracked planes as well as on shorter (decadal) timescales.