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Are Biofuels the Best Use of Sunlight?

Gerald Nelson

Chapter Chapter 2 in Handbook of Bioenergy Economics and Policy, 2010, pp 15-25 from Springer

Abstract: Abstract Biofuels are liquid sunlight. In effect, we use plants to convert raw solar energy into a liquid (ethanol or biodiesel) that can be used as an energy source for our transportation systems. The question this chapter asks is whether this conversion process is the best way to make use of solar energy. Photovoltaics clearly dominate plants in terms of technical conversion efficiency, with conversion rates for commercial cells of the mid-2000s that are 2–10 times higher than plants and operate throughout the year rather than just during the growing season. But photovoltaics provide electricity, which is not currently cost-effective for use in transportation. As research into photovoltaics and battery technology is still in its infancy, the potential for commercially viable technology breakthroughs seems high.

Keywords: Solar Energy; Liquid Fuel; Cellulosic Ethanol; Biofuel Crop; Battery Technology (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2010
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DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4419-0369-3_2

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