While alternative and renewable energy sources are solutions to climate change, they are also impacted by climate change. Communities should ensure the alternative and renewable energy systems they use are designed to accommodate the climate implications.
The efficiency of renewable energy systems, just like traditional energy sources, decreases during high heat events. Solar panels function less efficiently in extremely hot temperatures. The exact amount of efficiency loss, and the exact temperature at which it begins occurring, varies depending on the semiconducting material used. In addition, high heat in the daytime followed by high nighttime temperatures prevent the infrastructure from cooling down overnight, which will further stress the system, reduce its efficiency, and shorten its lifespan. The impacts of extreme heat on solar systems are compounded as higher temperatures increase electricity demand for cooling.
In addition to high heat, more frequent and more severe droughts will also impact renewable energy sources. Drier periods will make it more difficult to grow crops for bioenergy. Decreased precipitation will also reduce the potential of hydropower, especially when coupled with increased evaporation rates from higher temperatures.
Increased precipitation in the winter and spring will also affect renewable energy sources. More severe and frequent flooding will damage renewable energy infrastructure, harm bioenergy crop plantings, and damage or destroy hydropower dams.
It is important to note that many of these climate implications are also true for nonrenewable energy sources. For more information on how climate change will affect the energy distribution system for all energy sources, view Climate Implications – Distribution Mechanisms.