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29 – Implementing Industrial Symbiosis to scale up solar photovoltaic cells manufacturing in the United States

Given the increasing world energy demand and the scarcity of fossil fuels, solar photovoltaic (PV) cells are always more considered as one of the most suitable and sustainable alternatives. Nevertheless, their fabrication requires a considerable amount of energy and resources, processed by companies such as flat glass and photovoltaic modules producers, as well as semiconductor producers. The study here recalled represents a first feasibility study to introduce the concept of Industrial Symbiosis in PV cells production, in order to make them more competitive with particular reference to the United States market.

The main challenge that led researchers to study Industrial Symbiosis opportunities in PV cells production was to increase production efficiency and introduce economies of scale that could make them more competitive in respect to fossil fuels.

On of the main barriers to the creation of symbiotic industrial district for the manufacturing of PV cells is the high quality standards required for most raw materials, and for flat glass in particular, that often prohibit the use of secondary and recycled raw materials.

The approach used by researchers to overcome such barrier was to identify a suitable new technology developed within the glass industry that allows to easily recovering high quality flat glass eliminating problems with colour contamination. This technology consists in changing the glass production process, using thin plastic films that vaporise during re-melting to colour the surface.

The discovery process implemented by researchers in order to design the PV cells production symbiotic district started with the identification of all main input and output flows of a photovoltaic modules production plant. Then, for each of these flows, they identified a potential supplier/receiver and repeated this process with each company in the district until most of the materials’ loops were closed. Scale and profitability of each exchange were then further studied.

The main preconditions envisaged by researchers for the actual implementation of the identified exchanges and the creation of the first large-scale PV cells production district are the introduction of new legislations and policies to protect and expand the PV cells market and of new energy storage technologies to allow energy consumption and production decoupling.

Source: Pearce, J. M., 2008. “Industrial symbiosis of very large-scale photovoltaic manufacturing”. Renewable Energy 33:1101-1108.

The source contains the feasibility study of new potential IS exchanges. The source reports the evaluation of the environmental and economic benefits deriving from IS implementation.
ID:13 You can use the source ID to identify exchanges taken from this source in the Exchanges Database. To find out more, check out the Instructions for use in the Exchanges Database.


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