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Natural resources and sustainable energy: Growth rates and resource flows for low-carbon systems
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Earth Sciences, Department of Earth Sciences, Natural Resources and Sustainable Development. (Global Energy Systems)ORCID iD: 0000-0003-0794-5536
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Large-scale deployment of low-carbon energy technologies is important for counteracting anthropogenic climate change and achieving universal energy access. This thesis explores potential growth rates of technologies necessary to reach a more sustainable global energy system, the material and energy flows required to commission these technologies, and potential future availability of the required resources.

These issues are investigated in five papers. Potential future growth rates of wind energy and solar photovoltaics, and the associated material requirements are explored, taking the expected service life of these technologies into account. Methodology for assessing net energy return and natural resource use for wind energy systems are analyzed. Potential future availability of lithium and phosphate rock are also investigated.

Estimates of energy and materials required for technologies such as wind energy and photovoltaics vary, and depend on the assumptions made and methods used. Still, it is clear that commissioning of low-carbon technologies on the scale required to reach and sustain a low-carbon energy system in coming decades requires significant quantities of both bulk materials and scarcer resources. For some technologies, such as thin film solar cells and electric vehicles with lithium-ion batteries, availability of materials could become an issue for potential growth rates. Future phosphate rock production could become highly dependent on few countries, and potential political, social and environmental aspects of this should be investigated in more detail.

Material and energy flows should be considered when analyzing growth rates of low-carbon technologies. Their estimated service life can indicate sustainable growth rates of technologies, as well as when materials are available for end-of-life recycling. Resource constrained growth curve models can be used to explore future production of natural resources. A higher disaggregation of these models can enable more detailed analysis of potential constraints. This thesis contributes to the discussion on how to create a more sustainable global energy system, but the methods to assess current and future energy and material flows, and availability of natural resources, should be further developed in the future.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2016. , 49 p.
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and Technology, ISSN 1651-6214 ; 1414
Keyword [en]
low-carbon technology, renewable energy, energy transitions, critical materials, energy metals, material flows, net energy, EROI, life cycle assessment, LCA, growth curves, curve fitting, resource depletion
National Category
Energy Systems Other Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Natural Resources and Sustainable Development
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-301930ISBN: 978-91-554-9671-5OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-301930DiVA: diva2:955725
Public defence
2016-10-14, Hambergsalen, Geocentrum, Villavägen 16, Uppsala, 13:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2016-09-22 Created: 2016-08-25 Last updated: 2016-09-22
List of papers
1. Growth curves and sustained commissioning modelling of renewable energy: Investigating resource constraints for wind energy
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Growth curves and sustained commissioning modelling of renewable energy: Investigating resource constraints for wind energy
2014 (English)In: Energy Policy, ISSN 0301-4215, Vol. 73, 767-776 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Abstract Several recent studies have proposed fast transitions to energy systems based on renewable energy technology. Many of them dismiss potential physical constraints and issues with natural resource supply, and do not consider the growth rates of the individual technologies needed or how the energy systems are to be sustained over longer time frames. A case study is presented modelling potential growth rates of the wind energy required to reach installed capacities proposed in other studies, taking into account the expected service life of wind turbines. A sustained commissioning model is proposed as a theoretical foundation for analysing reasonable growth patterns for technologies that can be sustained in the future. The annual installation and related resource requirements to reach proposed wind capacity are quantified and it is concluded that these factors should be considered when assessing the feasibility, and even the sustainability, of fast energy transitions. Even a sustained commissioning scenario would require significant resource flows, for the transition as well as for sustaining the system, indefinitely. Recent studies that claim there are no potential natural resource barriers or other physical constraints to fast transitions to renewable energy appear inadequate in ruling out these concerns.

Keyword
Growth curves, Natural resources, Renewable energy, Wind energy, Sustainability, Energy systems
National Category
Energy Systems
Research subject
Engineering Science with specialization in the Science of Global Energy Resources
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-225554 (URN)10.1016/j.enpol.2014.05.003 (DOI)000341474100072 ()
Funder
StandUp
Available from: 2014-06-04 Created: 2014-06-04 Last updated: 2016-08-26Bibliographically approved
2. Material requirements and availability for multi-terawatt deployment of photovoltaics
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Material requirements and availability for multi-terawatt deployment of photovoltaics
(English)Article in journal (Other academic) Submitted
Keyword
solar energy, photovoltaics, critical materials, energy metals, renewable energy, recycling
National Category
Energy Systems Other Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-301946 (URN)
External cooperation:
Funder
StandUp
Available from: 2016-08-26 Created: 2016-08-26 Last updated: 2016-09-02
3. A review of life cycle assessments on wind energy systems
Open this publication in new window or tab >>A review of life cycle assessments on wind energy systems
2012 (English)In: The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, ISSN 0948-3349, E-ISSN 1614-7502, Vol. 17, no 6, 729-742 p.Article, review/survey (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose

Several life cycle assessments (LCA) of wind energy published in recent years are reviewed to identify methodological differences and underlying assumptions.

Methods

A full comparative analysis of 12 studies were undertaken (10 peer-reviewed papers, 1 conference paper, 1 industry report) regarding six fundamental factors (methods used, energy use accounting, quantification of energy production, energy performance and primary energy,  natural resources, and recycling). Each factor is discussed in detail to highlight strengths and shortcomings of various approaches.

Results

Several potential issues are found concerning the way LCA methods are used for assessing energy performance and environmental impact of wind energy, as well as dealing with natural resource use and depletion. The potential to evaluate natural resource use and depletion impacts from wind energy appears to be poorly exploited or elaborated on in the reviewed studies. Estimations of energy performance and environmental impacts are critically analyzed and found to differ significantly.

Conclusions and recommendations

A continued discussion and development of LCA methodology for wind energy and other energy resources are encouraged. Efforts should be made to standardize methods and calculations. Inconsistent use of terminology and concepts among the analyzed studies are found and should be remedied. Different methods are generally used and the results are presented in diverse ways, making it hard to compare studies with each other, but also with other renewable energy sources.

Keyword
life cycle assessment, wind energy, wind power, natural resource use, primary energy conversion, energy accounting
National Category
Energy Systems Environmental Management Civil Engineering Environmental Analysis and Construction Information Technology Environmental Sciences Geosciences, Multidisciplinary
Research subject
Physics with specialization in Global Energy Resources
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-168922 (URN)10.1007/s11367-012-0397-8 (DOI)000304879800008 ()
Projects
StandUp for Energy
Available from: 2012-02-20 Created: 2012-02-19 Last updated: 2016-08-26Bibliographically approved
4. Lithium availability and future production outlooks
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Lithium availability and future production outlooks
2013 (English)In: Applied Energy, ISSN 0306-2619, E-ISSN 1872-9118, Vol. 110, no 10, 252-266 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Lithium is a highly interesting metal, in part due to the increasing interest in lithium-ion batteries. Several recent studies have used different methods to estimate whether the lithium production can meet an increasing demand, especially from the transport sector, where lithium-ion batteries are the most likely technology for electric cars. The reserve and resource estimates of lithium vary greatly between different studies and the question whether the annual production rates of lithium can meet a growing demand is seldom adequately explained. This study presents a review and compilation of recent estimates of quantities of lithium available for exploitation and discusses the uncertainty and differences between these estimates. Also, mathematical curve fitting models are used to estimate possible future annual production rates. This estimation of possible production rates are compared to a potential increased demand of lithium if the International Energy Agency’s Blue Map Scenarios are fulfilled regarding electrification of the car fleet. We find that the availability of lithium could in fact be a problem for fulfilling this scenario if lithium-ion batteries are to be used. This indicates that other battery technologies might have to be implemented for enabling an electrification of road transports.

Keyword
Peak lithium, Electric vehicles, Lithium production, Lithium supply, Resource-constrained modelling, Lithium battery cars
National Category
Geosciences, Multidisciplinary Other Earth and Related Environmental Sciences Environmental Sciences Energy Systems Other Environmental Engineering
Research subject
Physics with specialization in Global Energy Resources
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-199784 (URN)10.1016/j.apenergy.2013.04.005 (DOI)000321601900024 ()
Projects
Stand
Available from: 2013-05-14 Created: 2013-05-14 Last updated: 2016-08-26Bibliographically approved
5. Phosphate rock production and depletion: Regional disaggregated modeling and global implications
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Phosphate rock production and depletion: Regional disaggregated modeling and global implications
2014 (English)In: Resources, Conservation and Recycling, ISSN 0921-3449, Vol. 93, 178-187 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Abstract Numerous recent studies discuss phosphate rock extraction, and some even propose that a peak in production could be reached in coming decades. This would have great consequences as phosphate rock based fertilizers are irreplaceable in modern agriculture. Studies suggesting an impending peak commonly use curve fitting models where mathematical functions are fitted to historical world production data, while studies using other methods reach completely different results. Also, a sudden increase in global reserve estimates is commonly used to dismiss these warnings, and has somewhat altered the debate. The recent multiplication of estimated reserves is mostly based on an increase of the Moroccan reserve estimate, leading to Morocco currently making up most of the global reserves. This study models global phosphate rock production using a disaggregated curve fitting model based on the production in individual major producing countries, providing a somewhat different view than most studies, and show that the global trade of phosphate rock could be completely dependent on Morocco in the future. There are several different factors that can potentially limit global production and these factors should be considered for the individual producing countries. Society’s total dependence on phosphate rock should be further investigated despite claims of large resource occurrences.

Keyword
Phosphorus, Phosphate rock, Peak minerals, Resource depletion, Fertilizer, Curve fitting modeling
National Category
Energy Systems
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-238213 (URN)10.1016/j.resconrec.2014.10.011 (DOI)000347594000017 ()
Funder
StandUp
Available from: 2014-12-10 Created: 2014-12-10 Last updated: 2016-08-26Bibliographically approved

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