A large plume of Saharan dust continues to move westward across the Caribbean Sea, with peak concentrations of Aerosol Optical Depths (AODs) predicted to reach the Cayman Islands on Thursday, 17 June.
The Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH) predicts that AOD values exceeding 1.0 will occur in the western Caribbean starting Thursday.
Executive Director, Energy, of OfReg Gregg Anderson said, “AOD values as high as 1.0 have implications for electricity production and demand, including Caribbean Utilities Customers participating in the Consumer Owned Renewable Energy (CORE) and Distributed Energy Resources (DER) programmes.”
Operators of utility-scall solar photovoltaic systems are likely to see a decline in power production this week. Wind generators can also be affected, although to a lesser extent.
The CIMH stated in an advisory issued on Monday, 14 June, that operators of solar and wind farms should be aware that unless they increase the frequency of maintenance, dust would accumulate on the surfaces of solar panels and in wind turbine blades, worsening the impact on power production.
“On the distribution side, there will be reductions in the amount of electricity produced from customerbased – including roof-top solar PV – systems,” the CIMH stated. “As a majority of the systems are grid-tied, this situation would result in an increase in the demand of electricity from the grid from this group of customers.”
High AOD values make the operation of air conditioning and refrigeration systems more energyintensive, the CIMH said, noting that at the same time, above normal AOD values are expected to trap heat close to ground surface, resulting in higher temperatures and the need for increased cooling.
“In essence, electricity demand from the grid could be higher than normal and, simultaneously, the contribution of solar PV and wind power to the electricity mix … could be lower than normal, during the affected days.”
This situation is expected to improve by the end of the week, the CIMH said