Photovoltaics - A path to sustainable futures
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As both population and energy use per capita increase, modern society is approaching physical limits to its continued fossil fuel consumption. The immediate limits are set by the planet's ability to adapt to a changing atmospheric chemical composition, not the availability of resources. In order for a future society to be sustainable while operating at or above our current standard of living a shift away from carbon based energy sources must occur. An overview of the current state of active solar (photovoltaic, PV) energy technology is provided here to outline a partial solution for the environmental problems caused by accelerating global energy expenditure. The technical, social, and economic benefits and limitations of PV technologies to provide electricity in both off-grid and on-grid applications is critically analyzed in the context of this shift in energy sources. It is shown that PV electrical production is a technologically feasible, economically viable, environmentally benign, sustainable, and socially equitable solution to society's future energy requirements. © 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.