Impact of climate change on solar irradiation and variability over the Iberian Peninsula using regional climate models

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As solar energy will be an increasingly important renewable energy source in the future years, the study of how climate change affects both temporal and spatial variability is very important. In this paper, we study future changes of the solar radiation resource in the Iberian Peninsula (IP) through a set of simulations from ESCENA project until mid-century. The evaluation of the simulations against observations indicates contrasting biases for the different regional climate models (RCMs) in terms of solar irradiation amount and its interannual variability. We propose a diagnostic for the quality of solar energy resource, in which the gridpoints are classified in four categories depending on the combination of solar irradiation amount and variability. The observed large percentage of points in the optimal category (high irradiation/low variability) in the IP is captured by the RCMs in general terms. The analysis of scenarios indicates a future increase in solar irradiation, although not all scenarios agree in the geographical distribution of this increase. In most projections, a shift is projected from the category with optimal resource quality towards the category with high irradiation/high variability, pointing to a certain quality loss in the solar resource. This result is not general, as a few scenarios show an opposite result. The exceptions are not linked to a particular GCM or emissions scenario. Finally, results from a first approximation to the issue of the ability of solar energy to cover power demand peaks in summer show important differences between regions of the IP. The spatially-averaged correlation of solar irradiation and summer surface temperatures for the whole IP is rather high, which is a positive result as the strong interconnections of the power grid within the IP could allow a distribution of solar power surpluses in certain regions for such high-temperature episodes.
© 2018 Royal Meteorological Society. The work performed was done by using data from EUMETSAT’s Satellite Application Facility on Climate Monitoring (CM SAF). TL is supported with funds from the MINECO under the Juan de la Cierva-Incorporación Programme (IJCI-2015-26645).