Climatic Change

, Volume 121, Issue 1, pp 93–102 | Cite as

Vulnerability of solar energy infrastructure and output to climate change

  • Anthony PattEmail author
  • Stefan Pfenninger
  • Johan Lilliestam


This paper reviews the potential vulnerability of solar energy systems to future extreme event risks as a consequence of climate change. We describe the three main technologies likely to be used to harness sunlight—thermal heating, photovoltaic (PV), and concentrating solar power (CSP)—and identify critical climate vulnerabilities for each one. We then compare these vulnerabilities with assessments of future changes in mean conditions and extreme event risk levels. We do not identify any vulnerabilities severe enough to halt development of any of the technologies mentioned, although we do find a potential value in exploring options for making PV cells more heat-resilient and for improving the design of cooling systems for CSP.


Thermal Storage Concentrate Solar Power Sand Storm Cloudy Weather Flat Plate Collector 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We would like to acknowledge the helpful comments of the organizers of a conference on energy system vulnerability to climate change, held in June 2010 at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), in Trieste, Italy, and three anonymous reviewers. Funding came from the ICTP, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the RESPONSES project of the European Union Seventh Framework Programme.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anthony Patt
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Stefan Pfenninger
    • 1
    • 3
  • Johan Lilliestam
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.International Institute for Applied Systems AnalysisLaxenburgAustria
  2. 2.ETH ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  3. 3.Imperial College LondonLondonUK
  4. 4.Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact ResearchPotsdamGermany

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