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Chinese scientists apply new models for sustainable wind, solar investments in Belt and Road Initiative countries

To assess renewable energy, particularly solar and wind, considering the limited supply of input materials, researchers from Shenzhen University established novel hybrid multi-criteria decision-making (MCDM) models that include a circular economy principles, waste potential and life cycle assessment (LCA).

Valerie Thompson ↗

To assess renewable energy, particularly solar and wind, in light of the limited supply of materials, researchers from Shenzhen University ↗ established novel hybrid multi-criteria decision-making (MCDM) models that include circular economy principles, waste potential, and life cycle assessment (LCA) ↗.

The framework was applied in a case study of Chinese investment policies in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) ↗ countries. These include Bahrain, Belarus, Bulgaria, Cambodia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Mongolia, Malaysia, Poland, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Thailand, Serbia, and the United Arab Emirates, among others.

“Nowadays, renewable energy is developing around the world, and some challenges are currently facing related to the scarcity of materials stemming from the limited availability of certain materials and growing waste generation,” research lead, Ali Hashemizadeh, told pv magazine. “So, in this research, we tried to use the circular economy (CE) foundations to address these challenges.”

The researchers took a multi-staged approach to develop a “practical and comprehensive, criterion-referenced” evaluation framework for solar and wind. Next, a panel of 10 experts contributed knowledge, with inputs assessed on “sociometric trust levels” using social network analysis tools and “mutual trust values”.

In a second step, weights were assigned to the criteria using the fuzzy best-worst method (FBWM ↗) and an enhanced method based on the removal effects of criteria (eMEREC) methodology. The former is intended to determine the most desirable, most important criteria, as well as the least desirable, least important counterparts, while the latter is an information management system that

Next, the alternatives were ranked according to the compromise solution methodology. Finally, the integrity and accuracy of the framework were tested on the BRI countries. Based on the study results, Hashemizadeh said that solar had a high performance within circular economy indicators, but recycling should be prioritized. “The flow of materials for solar technology should thus be rebuilt to establish a refurbishment plan and evaluate resource-efficient rules for waste management in each country.”

It found that solar farms had high CE indicators, but recycling needs to be prioritized. “The flow of materials should include a refurbishment plan and resource-efficient rules for waste management in each country,” stated the team. Wind energy was also deemed well-suited for the BRI countries, but it also “needs better methods for waste disposal” and construction of virtual supply chain networks with an emphasis on cost minimization.

The team noted that Chinese investment in BRI energy sector projects has totaled over $50 billion, with over $20 billion spent on renewable energy. Growth potential is strong in reaction to “public concerns about the drawbacks of fossil fuels”.

“Despite substantial renewable energy resources, the BRI nations have a shortage in renewable energy extraction,” the researchers stated, adding there is potential for China to support renewable energy in the region.

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The researchers stressed three policy implications. Firstly, policy needs to consider and emphasize resource efficiency and lifecycle management when using solar and wind technologies. Eco-design principles promoting the use of recycled materials and incentivizing the development of effective recycling infrastructure are needed.

The second was related to extended producer responsibility (EPR). “Policymakers can establish EPR programs requiring solar and wind technology manufacturers to take responsibility for their products throughout their lifespan,” noted the group.

The third was related to sustainable materials and component sourcing. “Policymakers should encourage the use of sustainable and recycled materials in the production of solar panels and wind turbines. This involves supporting research and development efforts to identify alternative, lower-impact materials, as well as establishing certification schemes that prioritize environmentally friendly sourcing practices,” stated the researchers.

To overcome limitations of the framework, the researchers said further investigation into the interaction between criteria, such as redesign, reduce and reduce, as well as analysis of new solar niches, such as floating solar, are called for. In addition, future studies could develop a comprehensive criteria system for various levels of the RE sector to provide fundamental references for RE assessment in parts of the world, such as Africa, the Middle East, and South America, they stressed.

When asked about reactions to the paper to date, Hashemizadeh said “Experts and policymakers were impressed by not only the significant case study but also the sustainable development approach of the research and thought it was very critical to reach a greener future in the world.”

The findings of the research appear in “Circular economy-based assessment framework for enhancing sustainability in renewable energy development with life cycle considerations ↗,” published in Environmental Impact Assessment Review.

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Michael Maren
Michael Maren
Former marine biologist who likes to spend as much time in the tropics as possible, due to a horrible time I once had in Alaska. Brrrr.

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