Major weather events and other natural disasters are having an impact on U.S. solar production, Greentech Media reports, with 15 weather and climate disasters in 2016 producing US$46 billion in overall damages.
“Weather-related losses are one of the most common causes of solar PV insurance claims worldwide, accounting for just under half of all utility-scale PV claims in North America and over a quarter throughout the rest of the world,” renewable energy insurers GCube concluded in a recent report. Flood, tornadoes, and hailstorms led the list of risks, followed by lightning storms, component theft, and electrical surges, failures, and interruptions.
In a detailed exposé on solar performance and weather risk, Greentech cites Arizona’s 280-MW Solana concentrating solar plant as an example of weather-related impacts. “The facility was knocked out for a few days in late July by a microburst, a brief but intense period of heavy precipitation commonly associated with strong winds, and did not generate power at its normal rate for months afterward,” the industry news outlet recalls.
Cloudy weather associated with El Niño may have brought down the plant’s output in the first two quarters of the year, but “bad weather definitely caused the latest problem” at Solana.
While weather modelling can help address the risk, “it can be almost impossible to account for the increasing unpredictability in weather events brought about by climate change, which adds a unique set of challenges,” Greentech notes. “Understanding the impacts of weather as best as possible on solar projects both in the past and future is critical for maintaining high-performing solar assets.”