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The transition to renewables: Can PV provide an answer to the peak oil and climate change challenges?

  • Lloyd, Bob
  • Forest, Andrew S.
Registered author(s):

    This paper explores energy and physical resource limitations to transitioning from fossil fuels to the large-scale generation of electricity with photovoltaic arrays. The model finds that business as usual models, which involve growth rates in world electricity demand of between 2% and 3.2% p.a., exhibit severe material difficulties before the end of this century. If the growth rate is lowered to 1% p.a., then it may be possible to reach the year 2100 before such difficulties, but it is likely that material constraints will occur early the next century. Steady state scenarios show that silicon based photovoltaic panels could, however, displace fossil fuels before the middle of the century, providing around the same order of magnitude as present (2010) world electricity demand. Scenarios also show that outcomes will be highly dependent upon the rate of improvement of photovoltaic technologies. The analysis does not contend that silicon PV technology is the only technology that will or can be adopted, but as the embodied energy content per kWh generated of this technology is similar to other renewable technologies, such as other solar technologies and wind, it can provide a baseline for examining a transition to a mixture of renewable energy sources.

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    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6V2W-50X2TX7-3/2/4e3ee9171467703ea59ac6bde2503a1c
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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Energy Policy.

    Volume (Year): 38 (2010)
    Issue (Month): 11 (November)
    Pages: 7378-7394

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:enepol:v:38:y:2010:i:11:p:7378-7394
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/enpol

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    1. Fthenakis, Vasilis, 2009. "Sustainability of photovoltaics: The case for thin-film solar cells," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 13(9), pages 2746-2750, December.
    2. Stodola, Nathan & Modi, Vijay, 2009. "Penetration of solar power without storage," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(11), pages 4730-4736, November.
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    4. Tremeac, Brice & Meunier, Francis, 2009. "Life cycle analysis of 4.5Â MW and 250Â W wind turbines," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 13(8), pages 2104-2110, October.
    5. Hirsch, Robert L., 2008. "Mitigation of maximum world oil production: Shortage scenarios," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 881-889, February.
    6. Bob Lloyd, 2009. "The Growth Delusion," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 1(3), pages 516-536, August.
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    8. Raugei, Marco & Frankl, Paolo, 2009. "Life cycle impacts and costs of photovoltaic systems: Current state of the art and future outlooks," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 392-399.
    9. Lenzen, Manfred & Wachsmann, Ulrike, 2004. "Wind turbines in Brazil and Germany: an example of geographical variability in life-cycle assessment," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 77(2), pages 119-130, February.
    10. Crawford, R.H., 2009. "Life cycle energy and greenhouse emissions analysis of wind turbines and the effect of size on energy yield," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 13(9), pages 2653-2660, December.
    11. Feltrin, Andrea & Freundlich, Alex, 2008. "Material considerations for terawatt level deployment of photovoltaics," Renewable Energy, Elsevier, vol. 33(2), pages 180-185.
    12. Raugei, Marco & Bargigli, Silvia & Ulgiati, Sergio, 2007. "Life cycle assessment and energy pay-back time of advanced photovoltaic modules: CdTe and CIS compared to poly-Si," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 32(8), pages 1310-1318.
    13. Nawaz, I. & Tiwari, G.N., 2006. "Embodied energy analysis of photovoltaic (PV) system based on macro- and micro-level," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(17), pages 3144-3152, November.
    14. Fthenakis, Vasilis & Mason, James E. & Zweibel, Ken, 2009. "The technical, geographical, and economic feasibility for solar energy to supply the energy needs of the US," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(2), pages 387-399, February.
    15. Lloyd, Bob, 2007. "The Commons revisited: The tragedy continues," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(11), pages 5806-5818, November.
    16. Aleklett, Kjell & Höök, Mikael & Jakobsson, Kristofer & Lardelli, Michael & Snowden, Simon & Söderbergh, Bengt, 2010. "The Peak of the Oil Age - Analyzing the world oil production Reference Scenario in World Energy Outlook 2008," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(3), pages 1398-1414, March.
    17. Jakobsson, Kristofer & Söderbergh, Bengt & Höök, Mikael & Aleklett, Kjell, 2009. "How reasonable are oil production scenarios from public agencies?," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(11), pages 4809-4818, November.
    18. Lloyd, Bob & Subbarao, Srikanth, 2009. "Development challenges under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)--Can renewable energy initiatives be put in place before peak oil?," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 237-245, January.
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