Surface reflectance and conversion efficiency dependence of technologies for mitigating global warming

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Renewable Energy, 2011, 36 (5), pp. 1343 - 1351
Issue Date:
Full metadata record
A means of assessing the relative impact of different renewable energy technologies on global warming has been developed. All power plants emit thermal energy to the atmosphere. Fossil fuel power plants also emit CO2 which accumulates in the atmosphere and provides an indirect increase in global warming via the greenhouse effect. A fossil fuel power plant may operate for some time before the global warming due to its CO2 emission exceeds the warming due to its direct heat emission. When a renewable energy power plant is deployed instead of a fossil fuel power plant there may be a significant time delay before the direct global warming effect is less than the combined direct and indirect global warming effect from an equivalent output coal fired plant - the " business as usual" case. Simple expressions are derived to calculate global temperature change as a function of ground reflectance and conversion efficiency for various types of fossil fuelled and renewable energy power plants. These expressions are used to assess the global warming mitigation potential of some proposed Australian renewable energy projects. The application of the expressions is extended to evaluate the deployment in Australia of current and new geo-engineering and carbon sequestration solutions to mitigate global warming. Principal findings are that warming mitigation depends strongly on the solar to electric conversion efficiency of renewable technologies, geo-engineering projects may offer more economic mitigation than renewable energy projects and the mitigation potential of reforestation projects depends strongly on the location of the projects. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.
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