EEE’s Fthenakis Promotes Solar Power
In a lead article in Scientific American, Professor Fthenakis and his co-authors Zweibel and Mason argue that, given a commitment of $400 billion by the federal government over 40 years, the U.S. could free itself from dependence on imported oil and cut greenhouse gas emissions significantly. They project a decrease of 62% of carbon dioxide emissions by eliminating 300 coal-fired and 300 natural gas power plants and by use of hybrid vehicles that would refuel using the solar power grid.
Fthenakis notes that his projections are based on established solar electric conversion and storage technologies, with just foreseeable near term improvements, and that if lower cost/higher efficiency third generation photovoltaics and advance storage systems become commercially available, solar energy could satisfy all the energy needs of the country at an even lower cost.
The team determined that among current technologies, thin-film cadmium telluride (CdTe) photovoltaics had the lowest energy payback times and the lowest emissions to the environment. However, they found, all PV technologies generate far less life-cycle emissions per GWh than conventional fossil-fuel-based electricity generation technologies. The latest on his research appeared in the lead article of Environmental Science and Technology in March 2008 and also made the news in The New York Times,Science News, IEEE Spectrum, Scientific American, Spiegel and other European magazines and papers.
The Columbia and Brookhaven research centers have formed collaborations with universities and research centers around the world, including the University of Utrecht, the Energy Research Center of the Netherlands, University of Stuttgart, and Chalmers University. To learn more about the Center for Life Cycle Analysis, which also includes Nicholas Themelis, emeritus Professor of Earth and Environmental Engineering, Paul Duby, Professor of Mineral Engineering, and Nikhil Krishnan, Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Engineering, go to: http://www.clca.columbia.edu/