The Environmental Impact of Photovoltaic Power Generation in the UK (2013)

Environmental Impact of Photovoltaic Power Generation in the UK Dissertation – The world needs to develop an alternative energy market and break the current reliance on fossil fuels. The most abundant energy source on earth is that provided by the sun, and it is completely renewable. Using photovoltaic technology can harvest that energy, and convert it into the universally useful form – electricity, potentially offering a sustainable future. Photovoltaic cells offer a way of capturing some of the suns energy directly and converting it to electricity, without any moving parts or harmful emissions during the electricity generation process.

However, they cannot be classed as truly ‘green’ whilst their manufacture relies upon power and heat generated from fossil fuel sources. Photovoltaic systems have seen a surge in popularity over recent years with government subsidised installations and generous feed-in tariffs. Awareness was heightened again recently, when the government announced changes to its policies on feed in tariffs. This study set out to investigate whether Photovoltaic technology could become a major part of the UK’s energy mix and what effect upon health, ecology and social the technology has.

It looked at the current energy mix of the UK and considered what other alternatives are currently available and in development and briefly considered their benefits and drawbacks. Recent studies by academics in the USA were reviewed and discussed. Case studies of recent installations were reviewed to establish the realistic potential yield of systems in the UK.

Further study was made of academic papers on the energy required for manufacture and the time that it takes for PV to generate sufficient energy to offset manufacturing. Consideration was given to the health and ecological effects of the materials and chemicals used in manufacture of PV. Aesthetics and social acceptance were discussed and finally, recycling of end of life PV equipment was reviewed. Analysis of case studies, undertaken on installations conceived in the early 2000’s, was carried out to prove the financial viability of systems and identify their carbon payback potentials.

The study found that, whilst much still needs to be done and, despite the misguided perception that the UK was unsuitable for widespread use of PV, the technology gave acceptable carbon payback, and, with continued popularity driving prices down, has the potential to become a significant force in the UK energy generation mix and that, with careful planning, education and developing technologies, the public perception can be changed.

This dissertation aims to identify whether photovoltaic power generation can become a major contributor to the United Kingdom’s future electrical energy generation plans, the environmental impact, positive or negative, of such contributions, the health impacts of manufacturing to meet the potential demand and the financial implication to the investor. The objective of the study is to inform the investor of these implications allowing them to make decisions which are not just based upon initial outlay, but the potential return on the investment in financial, environmental and health terms.

  • 14,000 words – 58 pages in length
  • Excellent use of literature
  • Excellent statistical analysis
  • Well written throughout
  • Ideal for construction management students

1 – Introduction
Aims and Objectives

2 – Current UK Energy Provisions

3 – Alternative Generation
The options
Photovoltaic Energy – The Future?

4 – Photovoltaic – Manufacture, Health and Environmental, Embedded Carbon and Recycling
Components and Raw Materials
Health and Environmental Considerations of PV Manufacture
Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Energy Payback
Photovoltaic Recycling

5 – Photovoltaic Analysis – UK Installations

6 – Analysis Results – UK PV Installations
Decision Drivers
Financial Implications
Embedded Carbon Page
Other Consideration


Environmental Impact of Photovoltaic Power Generation in the UK Dissertation
Environmental Impact of Photovoltaic Power Generation in the UK Dissertation

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