India is making a big push for solar energy, with power capacity expected to double this year. But some of the gains, especially in north India, could be offset by a growing problem: air pollution. A new study, the first of its kind in India and one of a handful globally, has found that dust and particulate matter (PM) may be reducing the energy yield of solar power systems in north India by 17-25 per cent annually. Half this reduction comes from dust and particles deposited on the surface of solar panels and which forms a physical barrier to light entry, said Duke University professor Mike Bergin, who led the study.

Researchers allowed panels to accumulate dust for a month. Most importantly, half the decline in energy yield came from ambient pollution--haze that reduces the amount of sunlight reaching the ground, a phenomenon known as solar dimming. "This study thus shows that improving air quality can lead to a big improvement in solar energy yield," said Bergin. "Cleaning panels is not enough." Solar energy is the linchpin of the India's renewable energy mission with a target of 100GW of solar power capacity by 2022. The Indian government offers many concessions and incentives to the developers.

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Source: April 26, 2017, The Economic Times