It’s natural, perhaps, to associate solar power with the hot places of the world.
However, Japanese scientists say that areas such as the Himalayas and even the Antarctic could supply enough energy to become the ‘Saudi Arabias of solar’.
Kotaro Kawajiri and his team estimated global solar energy potential, based on existing available data, taking into account the effects of temperature on the output of solar cells.
The work could be refined in future, they say, by considering other variables, such as transmission losses and snowfall.
But their initial results show that it’s not only the hottest areas, such as the US desert southwest, that are ideal locations for solar arrays.
Many cold regions at high elevations receive a lot of sunlight — so much so that their potential for producing power from the sun is even higher than in some desert areas.
And the types of photovoltaic cell in use today actually function better at low temperatures. Output from a photovoltaic module in the Himalayas, for example, could be 50 percent higher than output from the same module in Arizona.
The team suggests that the Himalayas could be an ideal locale for solar fields that generate electricity for the fast-expanding economy of the People’s Republic of China.
Other suitable areas include the Andes, and even Antarctica – although there might then be a problem with energy storage and transmission.
The research appears in the American Chemical Society journal Environmental Science & Technology.