MRS abstract

Goksin Kavlak presents at the 2014 Materials Research Society Fall Meeting on December 3rd, 2014, at Symposium FF: Materials as Tools for Sustainability


Metals Production Requirements for Large-Scale Photovoltaics Deployment

Goksin Kavlak1, James McNerney1, Robert L. Jaffe2,3, Jessika E. Trancik1,4

  1. Engineering Systems Division, MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA;
  2. Center for Theoretical Physics, MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA;
  3. Department of Physics, MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA;
  4. Santa Fe Institute, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA.

Energy scenarios with aggressive carbon reduction goals have projected the increasing adoption of photovoltaics (PV) in future years. This rapid deployment of PV would require growth in the supply of materials that are used to manufacture these technologies. In this work, we estimate the growth rates of global metals production that would be needed to meet PV deployment targets put forward in aggressive low-carbon energy scenarios. We then compare the required growth rates to historical production trends for a large set of metals. We find that if crystalline silicon PV provides 25% of the electricity generation in 2030, the required growth in silicon production does not exceed 5% per year even at current material intensities. This growth rate is within the range of historical rates for metals production. In contrast, if cadmium telluride PV provides more than 1% of the projected electricity generation in 2030, tellurium production would need to grow at unprecedented rates unless there are dramatic decreases in material intensity.