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Here's some truly sunny news out of the coronavirus pandemic.
Lower levels of air pollution resulting from people staying at home have enabled more sunlight to reach solar panels and increased their output of clean energy.
For the study, researchers analyzed data from Delhi, India, one of the world's most polluted cities, and published their findings June 19 in the journal Joule.
"India enacted a drastic and sudden lockdown at the start of the pandemic," said study first author Ian Marius Peters of the Helmholtz Institute Erlangen-Nürnberg for Renewable Energy in Germany. "That means that reductions in air pollution happened very suddenly, making them easier to detect."
In late March, the amount of sunlight reaching the solar panels in Delhi rose about 8% compared to 2017, 2018 and 2019, the investigators found.
Data on air quality and particulate matter pollution suggested that reduced pollution levels were a major reason for the rise, according to the researchers.
"The increase that we saw is equivalent to the difference between what a [solar panel] in Houston would produce compared with one in Toronto," Peters said. "I expected to see some difference, but I was surprised by how clearly the effect was visible."
Along with previous research from other cities, the Delhi findings provide a good base for further study on how air pollution affects solar energy production, the authors said in a journal news release.
"We've gotten a glimpse of what a world with better air looks like and see that there may be an opportunity to 'flatten the climate curve,'" Peters said. "I believe solar panels can play an important role, and that going forward having more [solar energy] installations could help drive a positive feedback loop that will result in clearer and cleaner skies."
-- Robert Preidt
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