14 July 2011

UC Berkeley and CPV Consortium report on environmental benefits of CPV

Concentrator photovoltaic (CPV) solar systems have distinct environmental advantages compared with other energy technologies, in most cases using less land, water and materials than other solar technologies, according to a new report issued by the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) at University of California, Berkeley and commissioned by the CPV Consortium, a non-profit organization supporting the development of the CPV industry. The report looks at the technology from inception to retirement, taking into consideration all aspects of the life cycle.

The study provides information on the life-cycle assessment (LCA) elements such as energy payback, embedded greenhouse gases, and cradle-to-cradle footprint, whereby CPV systems lead the industry based on data available at the time of the study, it is claimed. Taking into account its increasing efficiencies, it is projected that CPV will continue to increase in its competitive edge in these areas.

Water and land use are also examined. Compared to solar thermal generators, CPV water usage is minimal, making the technology optimal in dry, desert areas with a high solar resource. The land footprint and impact is also found to be lower; as CPV system efficiencies increase, this will become a greater benefit, it is reckoned.

“We are always looking for technologies to allow us to dramatically increase the amount of energy output per built area in order to minimize the footprint on the ground,” says RAEL director Dr Daniel Kammen. “Concentrating solar minimizes overall land area use to a degree that almost nothing can beat,” he adds.

“Solar energy is a critical driver of the energy transformation taking place around the world, but as these technologies are deployed it’s imperative that we consider the environmental impact of these new systems,” says Nancy Hartsoch, chairman of the CPV Consortium board. “This study demonstrates that CPV technology is not only economically viable, but environmentally advantaged through its entire life-cycle,” she adds. “With CPV, we don’t need to compromise between economics and the environment.”

The report uses life-cycle assessment methodology that includes energy, emissions, water use and land use. It also contains details about CPV deployment using UC Berkeley’s SWITCH model (an electric power system capacity expansion model of Western North America that plans long-term grid investments while minimizing the cost of electricity in a given policy context), and emissions benefits of CPV projects in power systems. The SWITCH model demonstrates the economic viability of CPV as a power generation technology for that region.

Tags: CPV

Visit: www.cpvconsortium.org

Visit: http://rael.berkeley.edu

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