Solar may cover the world’s electricity demand with 0.3% of its land area

Solar may cover the world’s electricity demand with 0.3% of its land area

Feb 6,2023.

Solar energy could theoretically cover the world's electricity demand by just 0.3% of its land area. This is one of the main conclusions of new research by a group of academic institutions, led byAarhus Universityin Denmark. The researchers claim that raw materials and land availability will not present real barriers to PV in its race to dominate the global energy landscape.

The scientists claim that,for an average annualgeneration for solar of 1,370 kWh/kW, 38 million hectares would be needed. They noted that the world has a total area of13,003 million hectares.

“Hence, our current electricity consumption could be supplied by solar PV covering 0.3% of the available land,” researcher Marta Victoria toldpv magazine.

The researchers said conventional assumptions about global PV deployment for the years to come are generally based on land cover and cost projections that chiefly consider classic, densely packed, utility-scale power plants. They claim such projections ignore the potential of vertical PV, floating installations, agrivoltaics, and building-integrated arrays, as well as otherinnovative PV systemconfigurations.

“不过,这些胚胎的应用程序显示that there is still room for innovation at the system level,” the academics said. “In summary, although available land can limit solar PV at local levels, it will not be a limitation at a larger scale, and therefore, we recommend that models include accurate and up-to-date constraints based on materials and land availability.”

The scientists described their findings in “Solar photovoltaics is ready to power a sustainable future,” which was recently published inJoule. They said the efficiency of solar cell technologies will improve significantly in the future, and that could help to address land-limitation issues in specific locations. They also claimed that raw material availability might only be an issue only forthin-film PV tech, and not for crystalline silicon cells, which currently account for 95% of the global market.

“Thanks to the increase in efficiency and the use of thinner contact fingers, the use of silver per watt has significantly reduced in the last years, and copper or aluminum could be used as a replacement if necessary,” the research group stressed. “The noncell materials in PV (glass, plastic, aluminum, concrete, and steel) are not expected to represent a limit either.”

The researchers also reported that solar maintained alearning rate of 23% since 1976 and that the cost of the PV technology droppedby 23% every time the capacity doubled.

“Given that the learning rate is based on module prices, italso includes the elimination of big parts of the margins in PV manufacturing dueto strong competition between suppliers,” the scientists said, noting that the main factors for cost reduction are efficiency increases, economies of scale, and scientific work on silicon materials.

The study also presents somechallenges PV should face in the next decade. These include the creation ofregulatory frameworks that reducesoft costs, reducing capital expenditure,enabling the electrification of other energy sectors viaproper tax schemes, and strengthening research on improving PV efficiency and reliability.

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