How do wildfires impact solar generation?
Environmental and industrial measurement firm Vaisala has reported that the wildfires raging across the West Coast of the US this summer have had a ‘significant’ impact on solar PV projects in the region.
Smoke is the culprit
The risk of fire damage to solar infrastructure is obvious, and many PV project owners and operators in fire-prone areas have implemented precautionary measures to ensure their assets are protected. However, smoke has a potentially serious impact on solar irradiance: the power per unit received from the sun.
Solar is the leading form of renewable energy generation in California, where wildfires have torn through some 180,000 acres of land this year. Vaisala says that the seasonal blazes have posed a dual threat to the safety and profitability of solar sites throughout the state. The company’s June, July and August 2016 solar performance maps show large areas of below-average solar resources in fire-ravaged California and the southwest.
Where has the impact been felt?
The Cedar Fire, in southern California’s Kern County, spread across almost 30,000 acres. The county boasts 4,881MW of solar power, and saw irradiance fall between one and four percent during the month of June.
Based on a US $150 MWh power purchase price, Vaisala estimates that a one percent loss in production in Kern County during this typical month of peak production would equate to over $940,000 in lost revenues for operators across the region.
Similar impacts are likely to have been felt by solar operators in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, where major wildfires in July and August have contributed to visible irradiance shortfalls on Vaisala’s maps.
What can operators do?
“Irradiance fluctuations are typically linked almost exclusively to changing weather patterns, and the impact of other seasonal environmental conditions such as wildfires isn’t always considered when it comes to financial modeling and forecasting” said Gwendalyn Bender, Product Manager, Vaisala.
“However, faced with the significant financial impact of performance fluctuations caused by regular wildfires, it’s clear that solar asset owners and operators in commonly affected areas need to start factoring this regional risk into their plans – particularly since these incidents typically coincide with the peak generation season.”
Trafigura and Yara International explore clean ammonia usage
Reducing shipping emissions is a vital component of the fight against global climate change, yet Greenhouse Gas emissions from the global maritime sector are increasing - and at odds with the IMO's strategy to cut absolute emissions by at least 50% by 2050.
How more than 70,000 ships can decrease their reliance on carbon-based sources is one of transport's most pressing decarbonisation challenges.
Yara and Trafigura intend to collaborate on initiatives that will establish themselves in the clean ammonia value chain. Under the MoU announced today, Trafigura and Yara intend to work together in the following areas:
- The supply of clean ammonia by Yara to Trafigura Group companies
- Exploration of joint R&D initiatives for clean ammonia application as a marine fuel
- Development of new clean ammonia assets including marine fuel infrastructure and market opportunities
Magnus Krogh Ankarstrand, President of Yara Clean Ammonia, said the agreement is a good example of cross-industry collaboration to develop and promote zero-emission fuel in the form of clean ammonia for the shipping industry. "Building clean ammonia value chains is critical to facilitate the transition to zero emission fuels by enabling the hydrogen economy – not least within trade and distribution where both Yara and Trafigura have leading capabilities. Demand and supply of clean ammonia need to be developed in tandem," he said.
There is a growing consensus that hydrogen-based fuels will ultimately be the shipping fuels of the future, but clear and comprehensive regulation is essential, according to Jose Maria Larocca, Executive Director and Co-Head of Oil Trading for Trafigura.
Ammonia has a number of properties that require "further investigation," according to Wartsila. "It ignites and burns poorly compared to other fuels and is toxic and corrosive, making safe handling and storage important. Burning ammonia could also lead to higher NOx emissions unless controlled either by aftertreatment or by optimising the combustion process," it notes.
Trafigura has co-sponsored the R&D of MAN Energy Solutions’ ammonia-fuelled engine for maritime vessels, has performed in-depth studies of transport fuels with reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and has published a white paper on the need for a global carbon levy for shipping fuels to be introduced by International Maritime Organization.
Oslo-based Yara produces roughly 8.5 million tonnes of ammonia annually and employs a fleet of 11 ammonia carriers, including 5 fully owned ships, and owns 18 marine ammonia terminals with 580 kt of storage capacity – enabling it to produce and deliver ammonia across the globe.
It recently established a new clean ammonia unit to capture growth opportunities in emission-free fuel for shipping and power, carbon-free fertilizer and ammonia for industrial applications.