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The solar power potential of Mount Everest

The solar power potential of Mount Everest

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A recent study found that most promising locations to generate solar power might not be in the world's deserts, but on its highest mountains.

The most promising locations to generate solar power are not in the world's hottest deserts, but on its highest -- and coldest -- mountains.

Kotaro Kawajiri at Massachusetts Institute of Technology along with his colleagues in Japan mapped solar irradiance across the world in an effort to identify areas with the greatest photovoltaic energy potential, according to a report published in Environmental Science and Technology. Their research also considered the effect of temperature on PV system performance.

Generally, the performance ratio decreases with latitude because of temperature. But Kawajiri found regions with the highest levels of sunlight (and best performance ratios due to low temperature) were in high-altitude environments. Meaning that in theory, the places with the greatest PV potential are the snowy high-altitude peaks of the southern Andes and Himalayas  -- not the desert Southwest. Even Antarctica, where the annual mean temperature is -58 degree Fahrenheit, was identified as an area with great PV potential -- at least for half of the year when the sun shines 24 hours a day.

Of course, installing solar panels in the high reaches of the Himalaya range and then transporting that electricity to big cities in India and China is another matter entirely -- and one riddled with logistical problems. However, distributed solar power could have a game-changing impact on the numerous small, isolated villages that dot the Himalayan range.

[Via: New Scientist]

Photo: NASA

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Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure