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Title: Economically sustainable scaling of photovoltaics to meet climate targets

Abstract

To meet climate targets, power generation capacity from photovoltaics (PV) in 2030 will have to be much greater than is predicted from either steady state growth using today's manufacturing capacity or industry roadmaps. Analysis of whether current technology can scale, in an economically sustainable way, to sufficient levels to meet these targets has not yet been undertaken, nor have tools to perform this analysis been presented. Here, we use bottom-up cost modeling to predict cumulative capacity as a function of technological and economic variables. We find that today's technology falls short in two ways: profits are too small relative to upfront factory costs to grow manufacturing capacity rapidly enough to meet climate targets, and costs are too high to generate enough demand to meet climate targets. We show that decreasing the capital intensity (capex) of PV manufacturing to increase manufacturing capacity and effectively reducing cost (e.g., through higher efficiency) to increase demand are the most effective and least risky ways to address these barriers to scale. We also assess the effects of variations in demand due to hard-to-predict factors, like public policy, on the necessary reductions in cost.Lastly, we review examples of redundant technology pathways for crystalline silicon PV tomore » achieve the necessary innovations in capex, performance, and price.« less

Authors:
 [1];  [1];  [1];  [1];  [2];  [1]
  1. Massachusetts Inst. of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, MA (United States)
  2. National Renewable Energy Lab. (NREL), Golden, CO (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
National Renewable Energy Lab. (NREL), Golden, CO (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE); National Science Foundation (NSF)
OSTI Identifier:
1257543
Report Number(s):
NREL/JA-5J00-65741
Journal ID: ISSN 1754-5692
Grant/Contract Number:  
AC36-08GO28308
Resource Type:
Journal Article: Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Energy & Environmental Science
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 9; Journal Issue: 6; Journal ID: ISSN 1754-5692
Publisher:
Royal Society of Chemistry
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
14 SOLAR ENERGY; 29 ENERGY PLANNING, POLICY, AND ECONOMY; photovoltaics; scaling; terawatt; growth rate; sustainable

Citation Formats

Needleman, David Berney, Poindexter, Jeremy R., Kurchin, Rachel C., Peters, I. Marius, Wilson, Gregory, and Buonassisi, Tonio. Economically sustainable scaling of photovoltaics to meet climate targets. United States: N. p., 2016. Web. doi:10.1039/C6EE00484A.
Needleman, David Berney, Poindexter, Jeremy R., Kurchin, Rachel C., Peters, I. Marius, Wilson, Gregory, & Buonassisi, Tonio. Economically sustainable scaling of photovoltaics to meet climate targets. United States. doi:10.1039/C6EE00484A.
Needleman, David Berney, Poindexter, Jeremy R., Kurchin, Rachel C., Peters, I. Marius, Wilson, Gregory, and Buonassisi, Tonio. Thu . "Economically sustainable scaling of photovoltaics to meet climate targets". United States. doi:10.1039/C6EE00484A. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1257543.
@article{osti_1257543,
title = {Economically sustainable scaling of photovoltaics to meet climate targets},
author = {Needleman, David Berney and Poindexter, Jeremy R. and Kurchin, Rachel C. and Peters, I. Marius and Wilson, Gregory and Buonassisi, Tonio},
abstractNote = {To meet climate targets, power generation capacity from photovoltaics (PV) in 2030 will have to be much greater than is predicted from either steady state growth using today's manufacturing capacity or industry roadmaps. Analysis of whether current technology can scale, in an economically sustainable way, to sufficient levels to meet these targets has not yet been undertaken, nor have tools to perform this analysis been presented. Here, we use bottom-up cost modeling to predict cumulative capacity as a function of technological and economic variables. We find that today's technology falls short in two ways: profits are too small relative to upfront factory costs to grow manufacturing capacity rapidly enough to meet climate targets, and costs are too high to generate enough demand to meet climate targets. We show that decreasing the capital intensity (capex) of PV manufacturing to increase manufacturing capacity and effectively reducing cost (e.g., through higher efficiency) to increase demand are the most effective and least risky ways to address these barriers to scale. We also assess the effects of variations in demand due to hard-to-predict factors, like public policy, on the necessary reductions in cost.Lastly, we review examples of redundant technology pathways for crystalline silicon PV to achieve the necessary innovations in capex, performance, and price.},
doi = {10.1039/C6EE00484A},
journal = {Energy & Environmental Science},
number = 6,
volume = 9,
place = {United States},
year = {Thu Apr 21 00:00:00 EDT 2016},
month = {Thu Apr 21 00:00:00 EDT 2016}
}

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Cited by: 11 works
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Works referenced in this record:

Material considerations for terawatt level deployment of photovoltaics
journal, February 2008