Smoke from the Canadian wildfires over New York on June 7, 2023. Selcuk Acar/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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When the smoke from Wildfires in Canada drifted across the Eastern and Midwestern United States last week, creating an otherworldly haze and orange glow, it not only diminished air qualitybut it reduced solar production of electricity by making it more difficult solar panels to absorb sunlight.
In the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest, solar power generation was reduced by a quarter.
Solar energy production in New York State, one of the regions most affected by smoke from the fires, has been reduced by 1,466 megawatts (MW) from June 6 to June 7, said a tweet from New York ISO. One MW produces enough electricity to power approximately 800 to 1,000 homes.
“Surface smoke pollution from New York to the DC area is by far the greatest since at least July 2002, when a similar situation occurred with nearby fires in Quebec,” said Ryan Stauffer, an atmospheric scientist stationed at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, at the time of the wildfires, NASA’s Earth Observatory reported. “This event rivals and in some cases will likely exceed (,) the smoke pollution seen in 2002.”
During wildfires, smoke is not the only factor interfering with solar power generation. In areas with high amounts of ash, the material will collect on the solar panels and block sunlight, Solarponics reported. Heavy ash sediments can reduce energy production by 40% or more if not removed.
Since smoke from the recent wave of more than 400 wildfires in Canada has eased temperatures somewhat in affected regions, air conditioner wasn’t really necessary, which relieved the electrical networkreported The Verge.
THE climate crisis causes forest fires and heat waves become more intense, and the United States must intensify its renewable energy production while reducing its use of fossil fuels in order to mitigate global warming.
In 2020, disastrous wildfires reduced solar production in California — a state that gets 14% of its electricity from solar power — from 30%, The Verge previously reported. The United States also recorded a record number of power outages = blackout that year, mostly due to fires and extreme weather, The Verge reported at the time.
According to Energy Information Administrationsolar energy accounts for only 3.4% of the country’s total electricity production, and forest fires are just another example of climate change put more pressure on the country’s overtaxed power grids.