Climate Change and Long-Term Viability of Solar Power: Assessing the Resilience of Photovoltaic Systems in Australia

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Copyright: Poddar, Shukla
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Abstract
Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems are one of the rapidly growing renewable energy technologies worldwide and will play a crucial role in future decarbonization. The accelerated pace of climate change has become a critical concern with significant implications for PV systems due to its sensitivity to weather-induced variability. Despite large-scale PV deployment worldwide, a comprehensive analysis of the role of meteorology in PV system performance is lacking. Using Australia as a case study, this thesis explores the future changes in PV generation along with addressing concerns related to future intermittency and weather-induced module degradation. Firstly, this thesis explores the effect of climate change on long-term PV potential and the major weather parameters that contribute to future changes in PV potential. The PV potential is expected to decrease ~2.5% by 2079 predominantly due to an increase in temperature. The efficiency of the cell reduces with increased temperature, thus generating less power. Under a future warmer climate, the cell efficiency losses are projected to rise (~1.2%) over Australia. Another major aspect is understanding the changes in solar resource distribution and variability to quantify weather-induced intermittency. PV generation in the eastern regions of Australia is projected to be more reliable in the future due to an increase in resource availability and subsequent reduction in intermittency (~20-minute lull periods). Short-term variability in the power generated (called ramps) can introduce voltage fluctuations that severely impact the grid stability and can also lead to power outages. A concise evaluation of ramps, project a decrease in ramp magnitude (~1%) across Australia by 2100, with ~5% changes in frequency and ramp periods varying with the location. Finally, exposure of the PV modules to outdoor conditions causes modules to degrade with time. However, how climate change will impact the mechanisms related to future degradation remains unclear. The mono-crystalline silicon modules are predicted to degrade ~0.45%/year in the future mainly due to thermal degradation mechanisms. Further, techno-economic implications of future degradation reveal ~15% rise in the cost of future energy. This research helps in identifying regions in Australia where PV systems are susceptible to climate change and provides recommendations to mitigate the risks associated with future PV reliability. The research implications of this thesis can form a benchmark for resource feasibility analysis before large-scale future investments to avoid economic losses. This research can be helpful in appropriate site selection, planning storage systems, material selection for the modules and improving module design to ensure maximum power generation from the PV systems in future.
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Publication Year
2024
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Thesis
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PhD Doctorate
UNSW Faculty
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