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Study: Solar power a sustainable alternative for environment and economy

3rd Aug 2011

A study by the University of California Berkeley and Concentrator Photovoltaic (CPV) Consortium has shown the benefits of large-scale solar power systems compared to other energy generating technologies.

CPV solar power systems focus a large area of sunlight onto a small area and then use this heat to generate thermoelectricity.

When compared to alternative energy sources, the systems were the clear winner.

The study looks at the entire life cycle of the system, from its development and manufacture, all the way to its retirement.

Research into the viability of the systems was led by Dr Daniel Kammen, a firm believer in the potential for the renewable energy industry to provide increased job opportunities.

Kammen says: "We are always looking for technologies to allow us to dramatically increase the amount of energy output per built area in order to minimize the footprint on the ground."

CPV systems typically require less land, water and materials with advancements in efficiency being made regularly.

Nancy Hartsoch, chairman of the CPV Consortium board, believes solar power technology the best option for future energy generation as it doesn't necessitate an economic compromise.

Hartosch asserts: "Solar energy is a critical driver of the energy transformation taking place around the world, but as these technologies are deployed it’s imperative that we consider the environmental impact of these new systems."

The study looked at long-term investments in grids all the way to the need to recycle system components and materials at the end of their life.

Kammen believes the greater impact of cheaper, cleaner energy is an increase in the standard of living, as countries that are energy poor will be able to deliver resources to their population without sacrificing the environment.

The study also showed the immediate benefits of installing regular rooftop solar panel systems in the home.

Household rooftop panel systems require the least amount of space compared to all other power generation technologies.

Solar panel systems available today also have a significantly reduced impact on water consumption.

Such features are important for everyday Australians who are looking to reduce their impact on a typically dry country, with space at a premium in population centres.

Solar panel systems for the home can be easily installed on existing rooftops, eliminating the need to find extra space.

The fact that the technology is not water consumption-intensive also relieves the burden on our ecosystems.

By: Mike Peacock - Solar Correspondent

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