We have been asked, what is the environmental impact of PI Energy technology? We have discussed how the technology will enable globally scalable PV. But what do we mean by globally scalable? Globally scalable for us means not only low cost and earth abundant materials but also addresses the impacts of the full lifecycle of the product, including the manufacturing process, the materials used to make the final solar PV product, and deployment of the product itself.
Unlike the dominant fossil fuel energy sources which generate carbon dioxide emissions throughout their lifecycle, solar energy’s carbon footprint is mostly front-loaded, so it is important to mitigate these environmental impacts which are numerous and include:
- GHG gas emissions in precursor materials, module manufacture, distribution and installation;
- land-use impacts, especially for utility-scale solar farms (e.g., clearing land);
- use of toxic elements that can leak into the environment (e.g., lead or cadmium); and
- PV must be economically sustainable, meaning it must be affordable on an installed-basis globally.
How does PI Energy’s technology compare on these challenges to traditional PV? Here’s how:
- Solar cell of PI Energy is less than 1/40 the thickness of traditional c-Si PV, so we are using far less material, and in addition the materials are earth-abundant (no cobalt, no tellurium, and no unobtanium).
- Our ultra-thin solar cell has no toxic elements. This is critical for solar PV, which we expect will be globally deployed across most areas near humans, it must not contaminate.
- PI Energy’s PV is lightweight and flexible, and a module distribution and installation makes costs far lower and reduces external impacts; and modules can be installed on far more pre-existing surfaces, so there is no need for solar farms or clearing of land.
- Our projected low installed-cost and easily wrap-able modules can provide economic sustainability, by making solar PV affordable and practical to the global market.
In the context of global needs, one can view all current solar energy installations as first-generation demonstrations, on the path towards real sustainability. Global environmental and economic sustainability is a challenge for which we started PI Energy, as a next-generation PV technology provider.
Below is a recent view of our optics bench from April 2020 with some testing hardware: