Q4 2022 – Material sustainability

Material sustainability is fast rising up the solar and energy storage agendas. Increasing amounts of renewables, the electrification of sectors like transport, and a critical supply chain situation are just some of the reasons why.

In Q4 2022, the UP Initiative is delving into the world of resources to find out what is being done to address these challenges. Of particular interest are steel, aluminum, glass, and precious metals like silver, copper, and cobalt.

pv magazine 09/2022

Loose threads: Presentation of the quarterly theme

pv magazine 10/2022

Cobalt clings on: Cobalt is key for boosting energy density and battery life, but it comes with caveats: expensive, scarce, and linked to unethical mining practices, wild price fluctuations, and a tenuous supply chain. In recent years, battery manufacturers and automakers have intensified efforts to reduce or eliminate cobalt in lithium-ion cathodes. But sometimes, old habits die hard, as pv magazine’s Marija Maisch explains.

Copper is the new silver lining: As the PV industry scales to annual terawatt-level production to rapidly curtail the world’s emissions, it will become more challenging to continue the cost reduction trajectory. Increasing module production from current levels of 200 GW to 300 GW to several terawatts each year will consume significantly more material resources than the industry currently uses. This will require consideration of the additional materials to be sourced, writes Alison Lennon, chief scientist at Sundrive Solar and professor at the UNSW’s School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering.

pv magazine 11/2022

A sustainability swan song: Pioneering PV researcher Martin Green has received an abundance of accolades over his 50-year career of fundamental solar research with teams at the University of New South Wales (UNSW). That contribution was further recognized on Sept. 26, when he picked up the WCPEC-8 Award in Milan, Italy. Green spoke with pv magazine about the role of technologies such as PERC cells and his efforts to advance non-toxic thin film semiconductors for the tandem cells of the future.

Mind the gap: Wood Mackenzie Senior Research Analyst Max Reid explains why recycling battery materials will not be enough to meet projected electric vehicle demand in 2030. Miners need to get to work, and fast.

pv magazine 12/2022

Plating up: A reduction of silver consumption in PV production is required on the way to terawatt scale. Given this, the time may have come for the commercialization of new copper plating technologies – doing away with the need for silver in cell metallization altogether. However, the history of plating technology is littered with cautionary tales.

Certify and verify for sustainability: Environmental credentials are becoming important for PV modules, putting the spotlight on the ways in which sustainability claims can be verified, qualified and trusted. Solar can’t continue to rely on zero emissions during generation as its only green tick, but the certification and labeling of PV modules is improving, as is the outlook for higher standards, reports Tristan Rayner.

Back to the UP Initiative feature page

This page was last updated on February 2, 2023.