Photovoltaic energy versus atomic energy

For a long time the surprise at the lack of the Polish government to promote the development of photovoltaics is expressed by the Polish specialists. But photovoltaics is one of the safest and cleanest sources of electricity. The unquestionable advantages which characterize photovoltaics include: an inexhaustible energy source (sun),

with practically no infrastructure costs, the lack of any waste in energy production. Photovoltaics will assure a significant degree of flexibility and independency from fossil fuels, and thus Poland would be able to avoid buying permits for CO2 emissions. It is also the most attractive technology among other renewable energy sources, because it is incomparably more efficient in the area of conversion of the solar energy, than biomass and biogas. What’s more it does not cause possible side effects that are characteristic of other renewable energy as the threat of jungle's stubbing to obtain biofuels, or emission of noise and vibrations emitted by windmills.


Meanwhile, in Poland in recent years, public acceptance for the construction of nuclear power plant has been growing. This is, among other, the result of a massive campaign conducted by the Polish government. However, it should be stressed that support in Western Europe is steadily declining and, increasingly, this is due to the negative reviews for this type of investment expressed by renowned scientists in the field of energy. Nuclear technology certainly has some advantages, which include the conservation of energy with a high degree of purity and yield. However, investment in nuclear energy are associated with very large uncertainties (especially in the long term perspective), which are:

State plans to invest in nuclear energy at the expense of other alternative sources such as wind or solar. And to achieve energy security, Poland needs the flexibility in energy production. Nuclear technology will not let us free from the problems associated with energy production in the coming years. Also, without the necessary investment in transmission network to connect renewable energy to the power plant and environmental development of the power plant itself, it will not affect the reduction of CO2 emissions by 2020 (in accordance with international obligations). Given that the launch of the first nuclear power plant will be at least in 2020, it is easy to see that investment in the energy source like photovoltaics would allow for much faster achieving the desired results, and practical elimination of all of the above hazards associated with nuclear technology. Achieving the CO2 reduction targets for 2020 set by the EU without the investment in the photovoltaics market may be practically impossible.

Among the variety of technologies, photovoltaic technology has a considerable and growing interest due to its enormous energy potential. In the coming decades, it may in fact become a major source of renewable energy. The biggest advantage of this innovative technology is that it uses a free, abundant and inexhaustible energy source. Another important advantage of photovoltaics is its high reliability in emergency situations such as interruptions in the power supply as a result of electrical discharges or natural disasters. Photovoltaics, generating electricity in a decentralized and dispersed way, plays a key role in creating of sustainable energy management system in the world.

Analysis of the current trend in the energetic development of Germany till 2020 made by the German Agency for Renewable Energy Sources (Agentur für Erneuerbare Energien), states that in 2020 the amount of energy coming from photovoltaic will amount 39.5 TWh, which represents 7% of projected electricity consumption. By contrast, nuclear power will amount just 9 TWh, which corresponds to 1% of the estimated consumption of electricity. According to the mentioned above analysis, total share of RES in 2020 will amount to 47%, ie 278 TWh. This will reduce carbon emissions by 120 million tons annually, from 325 million tons in 2007 to 205 million tons in 2020. 

The development of photovoltaic power plants can achieve a positive impact not only on the sphere of ecological functioning of the state, but also on the labor market. German data show that the market for photovoltaics to 2009 has generated about 48 thousand jobs. It is worth mentioning that the photovoltaic systems do not produce any pollution during operation. Therefore, among other things, it is considered as one of the most friendly sources of energy both, to the environment and a man.

A very important input determining of the development of photovoltaic energy is a payback period, specifying the time at which the system will produce the energy that went into its production. Estimation of the time needed to return the energy consumed in the production of PV systems, are located within the limits of 2 (for standard thin-film modules without frames) to 6 years (for standard crystalline modules with frames). New production processes and the increased scale of production should reduce the energy payback time to less than a year for the modules, and to less than 2 years for complete systems.

Source: EPIA, the Institute of Photovoltaics, Warsaw University of Technology