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Sustainability 2013, 5(4), 1406-1442; doi:10.3390/su5041406

Household Solar Photovoltaics: Supplier of Marginal Abatement, or Primary Source of Low-Emission Power?

Paltech Corporation, 8 Kingston Park Court, Knoxfield Victoria 3180, Australia
Received: 24 February 2013 / Revised: 15 March 2013 / Accepted: 18 March 2013 / Published: 26 March 2013
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Abstract

With declining system costs and assuming a short energy payback period, photovoltaics (PV) should, at face value, be able to make a meaningful contribution to reducing the emission intensity of Australia’s electricity system. However, solar is an intermittent power source and households remain completely dependent on a “less than green” electricity grid for reliable electricity. Further, much of the energy impact of PV occurs outside of the conventional boundaries of PV life-cycle analyses (LCA). This paper examines these competing observations and explores the broader impacts of a high penetration of household PV using Melbourne, Victoria as a reference. It concludes that in a grid dominated by unsequestered coal and gas, PV provides a legitimate source of emission abatement at high, but declining costs, with the potential for network and peak demand support. It may be technically possible to integrate a high penetration of PV, but the economic and energy cost of accommodating high-penetration PV erodes much of the benefits. Future developments in PV, storage, and integration technologies may allow PV to take on a greater long term role, but in the time horizon usually discussed in climate policy, a large-scale expansion of household PV may hinder rather than assist deep cuts to the emission intensity of Australia’s electricity system. View Full-Text
Keywords: solar PV; peak demand; greenhouse emissions; embodied energy; EROI solar PV; peak demand; greenhouse emissions; embodied energy; EROI
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Palmer, G. Household Solar Photovoltaics: Supplier of Marginal Abatement, or Primary Source of Low-Emission Power? Sustainability 2013, 5, 1406-1442.

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