Michele Goe


Renewable energy technologies have emerged to address the negative environmental impacts of increasing use of fossil fuels. Solar photovoltaics (PV) are an attractive renewable energy technology because they avoid significant carbon emissions during use common to non-renewables, have a long useful lifetime estimated at 20 - 30 years, and they take advantage of a stable and plentiful energy resource - the sun. However, it has been suggested that material availability is a potential constraint for broad deployment of PV. For example, solar PV's core technology depends on several primary materials i.e. indum and tellurium which were recently determined to be of high importance for the development of a clean energy economy and at near-critical supply risk. In order to evaluate the risks to supply, the environment, and the economy a broader definition of criticality that goes beyond physical scarcity to include sustainability metrics e.g. embodied energy, political instability, economic value was developed. Using this methodology several policies are suggested that depart from traditional command- and-control approaches. One criticality mitigating strategy, material recycling, is at odds with current PV research where there is a strong emphasis on efficiency gains. Recycling is a strategy with potential that has yet to be fully recognized due to the current lack of collection infrastructure and uncertain set of processing technologies. This work explores under what conditions the energy payback time (EPBT) of PV modules containing recycled materials demonstrate equivalent energy savings to improvements in efficiency. These EPBT improvements from recycling motivate further methodological work on the economically optimal PV recycling infrastructure. This methodology includes a case study that demonstrates model sensitivity in addition to revealing important tradeoffs for recycling policy and economics.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Photovoltaic power systems--Materials; Solar energy; Electronic waste--Recycling; Product life cycle--Management

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Sustainability (Ph.D.)

Department, Program, or Center

Sustainability (GIS)


Gabrielle Gaustad

Advisor/Committee Member

Paul H. Stiebitz

Advisor/Committee Member

Nabil Nasr


Physical copy available from RIT's Wallace Library at TK1087 .G63 2014


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes