The desire to reduce the impact of an already green technology is tackled by researchers at NREL and findings described in a paper published in Joule.
The team focuses on two dominantly deployed photovoltaic technologies: cadmium telluride and silicon PV. The green technologies help decrease carbon emissions and meet global decarbonisation goals, but the manufacturing processes of green technologies can result in greenhouse gas emissions.
Interestingly, green technologies are awesome, but in the quest to scale them up to an incredible magnitude, it is sensible to take a closer look to understand what can be done to minimize the impact.
To comprehend the overall impact of green technologies on global decarbonisation goals, traditional metrics such as performance, cost, and reliability were looked by the team. The team evaluated embodied energy and carbon – the carbon emissions and for PV system to generate the same amount of energy that was required to produce it.
Meanwhile, cost and efficiency are the two parameters on which most advances are based on as these metrics are easy to evaluate.
But, if part of the objective is to decarbonize, it is sensible to look at the bigger picture. There lies benefit in trying to push efficiencies, but other factors are influential while undertaking decarbonisation efforts.
Importantly, the manufacture and science perspectives brought together is one of the unique things of the paper. It involved combining life-cycle analysis with materials science to explain the emission results for each technology and to investigate effects of future advances. The leaning is to use the results to examine areas that require additional research.
In fact, technology type and manufacturing location both have a significant impact on embodied carbon.