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Renewable Energy from Finite Resources: Example of Emerging Photovoltaics

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Renewable energies, such as sunlight, wind and geothermal heat, are resources that are replaced rapidly by natural processes. However, wind, hydro and solar installations strictly require raw materials that are, in fact, not renewable. Many raw materials are already facing a supply shortage which cannot be easily overcome. This work reviews the problem of critical raw material (CRM) use in photovoltaics (PV) as an example and explains why supply cannot be easily increased to meet demand. We discuss whether there is indeed a 'struggle for elements' in a Darwinian sense, which ultimately leads to a 'survival of the fittest' race in renewable energy technology. In the case of PV, the perception of the definition of 'fittest' needs to change from that considering energy conversion efficiency alone to that which holistically considers net energy produced per emission under the premise that sufficient environmentally and socially acceptable raw material supply exists for renewable energies and all other sectors.
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Keywords: CLEAN TECHNOLOGIES; CRITICAL RAW MATERIALS; SECONDARY SOURCES; THIN FILM PHOTOVOLTAICS

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Institute for Ecopreneurship, School of Life Sciences, University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland, CH-4132 Muttenz; Institute for Environmental Research, RWTH Aachen University, Worringerweg 1, 52074 Aachen, Germany 2: Institute for Environmental Research, RWTH Aachen University, Worringerweg 1, 52074 Aachen, Germany 3: Institute for Ecopreneurship, School of Life Sciences, University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland, CH-4132 Muttenz; Sub-Department of Environmental Technology, Wageningen University, 6700 AA, Wageningen, the Netherlands;, Email: [email protected]

Publication date: November 1, 2019

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  • International Journal for Chemistry and Official Membership Journal of the Swiss Chemical Society (SCS) and its Divisions

    CHIMIA, a scientific journal for chemistry in the broadest sense, is published 10 times a year and covers the interests of a wide and diverse readership. Contributions from all fields of chemistry and related areas are considered for publication in the form of Review Articles and Notes. A characteristic feature of CHIMIA are the thematic issues, each devoted to an area of great current significance.

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