The way forward

A solar power bench at the Eden Project, helping renewable energy become part of everyday life. It;s a shame it didn't appear to be working... we still have a long way to go it seems!
A solar power bench at the Eden Project, helping renewable energy become part of everyday life. It’s a shame it didn’t appear to be working… we still have a long way to go it seems!

Over the week I have become convinced of the ability of renewable energy to help provide our ever increasing energy needs. As I discovered from interviews with the general public and then with industry experts, people’s concerns and fears are often unfounded or can easily be overcome. Renewable energy already makes a large contribution to world primary energy needs; in 2009 it amounted to 13% (Boyle, 2012). Renewable energy production is growing, and this is likely to continue. 

On the plus side there is mounting concerns over climate change and limited fossil fuel reserves (Boyle, 2012), as well as technological advancements improving cost and efficiency. However, altering the existing energy production and distribution systems and matching supply and demand over time and space are still large scale barriers that do not have simple answers.

An area of the renewable energy industry that really requires more attention is the carbon footprint of renewable energy installations themselves -that is the total greenhouse gas emissions it is responsible for over its lifetime.

One aspect of this is considering where the technology comes from.

European solar panels have been found to be twice as energy efficient during the manufacturing stage as Chinese panels.  Source: Wilson, n.d.
European solar panels have been found to be twice as energy efficient during the manufacturing stage as Chinese panels.
Source: Wilson, n.d.

Although a solar panel will generate more energy over its lifetime than it requires for production (CAT, n.d.), the carbon pay-back time is often not considered. If people did take it into consideration along side the financial pay-back time, companies would have an incentive to try and reduce their panels’ carbon costs.

I consider that a lot of improvements still need to be made if the renewable energy industry is to become as eco-friendly as it is tries to present itself. This includes reducing energy use altogether and leading by example in terms of how offices and businesses are run.


Natural Generation in Perranporth does just that by using electric cars, a biomass boiler, solar PV and solar thermal panels, as well as recycling waste into furniture.

http://www.naturalgen.co.uk/


A National Geographic article on the environmental impact of solar panels

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2014/11/141111-solar-panel-manufacturing-sustainability-ranking/


Refernces

Boyle (2012) Renewable Energy: Power for a sustainable future, Oxford University Press: Oxford.

CAT Center for Alternative Technology (n.d.) What is the energy and carbon payback time for PV panels in the UK? accessed 10/06/15 from CAT Information Service http://info.cat.org.uk/questions/pv/what-energy-and-carbon-payback-time-pv-panels-uk

Figures

Wilson (n.d.) It’s not where your solar panels came from that matters, it’s where they are going that counts, accessed 10/06/15 from shrink that footprint
http://shrinkthatfootprint.com/solar-panel-origin

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s