Final Technical Report: Impact of Wildfires on Solar Generation, Reserves, and Energy Prices

Mengmeng Cai, Chin-An Lin, Vikram Ravi, Yimin Zhang, Cheng-Hsuan Lu, Manajit Sengupta

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


This study quantifies the potential impacts of wildfires on the California grid, specifically the impacts under three different wildfire scenarios: a "no wildfire" scenario and two wildfire-specific scenarios, "2020 wildfire" and "enhanced wildfire" (with both wildfire scenarios assuming spatial distribution of the wildfire location the same as the 2020 fires). The study combines each scenario with two solar energy infrastructures: one corresponding to the current solar installation and the other to future (midcentury) solar installation. The analysis is conducted using state-of-the-science modeling tools: primarily WRF-Chem for atmospheric modeling with chemistry to account for impacts of wildfires on solar radiation and PLEXOS for electricity market simulations. The analysis suggests that wildfires can significantly attenuate solar radiation at both short downwind distances as well as far from the emissions sources. Although the study is limited in scope, and the analysis studies only a few of the many factors that can affect photovoltaic generation and electricity markets, it indicates that wildfire smoke is an important factor that needs to be carefully considered and analyzed in planning the future grid.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages66
StatePublished - 2023

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-5D00-86640


  • electricity market
  • enhanced aerosol
  • solar radiation
  • wildfire
  • WRF-Chem


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