Photovoltaics and Climate Change

Dec 2nd, 2011 | By | Category: Articles, Climate Impact

If greenhouse gas levels stay as they are, the world’s temperature is expected to increase by 6.4°C over the next 100 years. This may not sound like much, but it could prove catastrophic for the Earth. Burning fossil fuels (oil, coal and gas) for energy causes irreversible changes to our climate, so it makes sense that we should minimize this consumption. Photovoltaic solar energy plays an important part in helping to reach the climate policy goal to keep the global mean temperature rise to no more than 2°C. More than a 2°C rise will damage ecosystems and dramatically disrupt the climate. We have very little time to change our energy system to meet these targets. The targets required mean that global emissions will have to start declining by the end of the next decade (2020s) at the latest. Switching to photovoltaic solar power can help!

According to the new “Solar Generation” report, photovoltaics could help avoid up to 4,047 million tons of CO2 equivalent every year by 2050. The cumulative total over time of avoided CO2 emissions from 2020 to 2050 would be 65 billion tons.

By using photovoltaics, the Earth’s dependence on fossil fuels will greatly diminish. On top of this, the sun is an infinite resource, expected to shine for at least another 5 billion years. We should not waste this opportunity! In contrast, the Earth’s fossil fuel reserves are quickly running out.

Reducing your environmental footprint: The energy it takes to make a solar photovoltaic system is “paid back” by the energy it generates, usually within one to four years. Some new generation technologies have even shortened this to six months depending on the location. Photovoltaic systems can be expected to last at least 25 years.

Improving the grid:  Photovoltaic solar power can be placed at the centre of an energy generation network and also be used in a “decentralised” way (small generators are spread throughout a system). It connects into energy grids and also stands alone with batteries, in places where it is too far or too expensive to connect to the grid.

Making your city greener: photovoltaics can seamlessly integrate into the densest urban environments. City buildings running lights, air-conditioning and equipment are responsible for large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, if the power supply is not renewable. Solar power will have to be an integral and fundamental part of tomorrow’s positive energy buildings.

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