Queen's researchers propose rethinking renewable energy strategy

Feb 11, 2010

Researchers at Queen's University suggest that policy makers examine greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions implications for energy infrastructure as fossil fuel sources must be rapidly replaced by windmills, solar panels and other sources of renewable energy.

Their recommendations could be used to help policy makers restructure production in a way that will optimize greenhouse gas emission reductions.

"The energy industry is expanding so rapidly that the dynamic nature of could pass a tipping point in the if we're not careful," says Mechanical and Materials Engineering Professor Joshua Pearce, lead researcher on the study.

Pearce, Colin Law and Renee Kenny propose using dynamic life-cycle analyses for determining carbon-neutral growth rates that will not dramatically increase the level of GHG emissions as the energy industry expands.

This means, for example, weighing the benefits of dramatically increasing wind power against the increase in GHG emissions when the materials used to build the windmill are mined and when it is manufactured - not just after it's been erected.

It also means decreasing production in some of the most polluted areas of the world, including China.

Using the carbon-neutral growth rate, the carbon mitigation potential for a solar electricity plant would be higher if it was commissioned in China and the were manufactured in Canada. But that is the exact opposite of the current trend, which is manufacturing in China and deploying in Europe or North America.

"When the growth of an industry is fast, the emissions prevented by a given technology are negated to fabricate the next wave of technology deployment," Mr. Law. "We live in an era where there are physical constraints to the the climate can sustain in the short term, so this may be unacceptable."

The researchers' findings were recently published in the journal Energy Policy.

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User comments : 2

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phlipper
3.7 / 5 (3) Feb 11, 2010
I believe China is smart by not yielding to the windmill/solar cell lobby. By making these products, they are laughing at Western societies...all the way to the bank!
freethinking
1 / 5 (1) Feb 15, 2010
I think these type of studies will reduce in frequency as more and more people realize that AGW is a myth perpertrated by get rich quick con artists like Al Gore.

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