Reading Faye Sunderland’s report on PV means I’ll hold-off on buying PV for another year – they can’t get any better – can thy??
Original article; http://www.thegreencarwebsite.co.uk/blog/index.php/2013/01/21/solar-panels-better-than-biofuel-says-new-study/
Solar panels better than biofuel, says new study
While biofuels may right now make up much of our answer to the demand for renewable transport fuel, both here in Europe and in the US, that could soon change.
According to new research from the University of California-Santa Barbara, photovoltaic panels are a much more efficient method of producing clean, renewable fuel compared to biofuel.
The university’s Environmental Science & Management Professor, Roland Geyer who lead the research says: “PV is orders of magnitude more efficient than biofuels pathways in terms of land use – 30, 50, even 200 times more efficient – depending on the specific crop and local conditions,” says Geyer. “You get the same amount of energy using much less land, and PV doesn’t require farm land.”
Previous research has shown that biofuels from food crops made do little to reduce transport emissions and may actually increase them. Despite that, the EU has a target for 10 per cent of transport fuel to be produced by renewable sources by 2020, much of which will be met through the use of biodiesel and ethanol. In the US, the story is similar, with a target 15 billion US gallons of corn ethanol by 2015.
In this latest study, the researchers studied three different ways of converting solar energy to transport fuel; converting corn or switchgrass to ethanol, convert energy crops (corn and switchgrass again) into electricity and use solar panels to produce electricity to power electric cars.
Studying the full lifecycle of each method, the scientists found that using photovoltaic required less land, produced the lowest lifecycle emissions and required the lowest indirect fossil fuel use-making it the best option by far.
Even the most efficient biomass solution required 29 times more than solar panel installations.
In the US only some locations that have very high hypothetical switchgrass yields of 16 or more tons per hectare, were expected to compete with solar panels for GHG emissions.
“The bottleneck for biofuels is photosynthesis,” says Geyer. “It’s at best one per cent efficient at converting sunlight to crop, while today’s thin-film PV is at least 10 per cent efficient at converting sunlight to electricity.”
Source: TG Daily
About Faye Sunderland
Faye has been writing about cars and environmental issues since 2007. A suspected eco-warrior working on the corporate inside, Faye mainly likes the weird, quirky vehicles that show a distinct environmental advantage. Her ideal car has enough room to fit a bale of hay in the boot. When not working, she likes nothing better than to head out on her bicycle and explore the countryside.