Climate change impact on human health part2

In part 1 we described the mechanism of climate change in general and derived out of this some impacts to human health. With this article we would like to somehow complete the picture and to draw out a conclusions about human health, derived from the climate change. The part1 we closed with the description of waterborne diseases, which will grow with further climate change. Let us now go to a subject, which is also water related.

Causes of Algal and Cyanobacterial Blooms

Algae and cyanobacteria behave like plants: they absorb carbon dioxide and release the oxygen that we need to survive on Earth. However, they can also produce toxins that are dangerous to wildlife and swimmers. Warmer ocean temperatures and heavier precipitation, which increases the delivery of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous to coastal waters and lakes, can promote the growth of algae and cyanobacteria. When conditions are right, algal blooms occur.

One of the key ingredients for a harmful algal bloom is nitrogen. The map below shows where nitrogen is deposited across the Mississippi river basin in the United States. The heavy use of nitrogen-based fertilizer to grow food, as well as highly concentrated livestock operations in the upper Midwest, deliver nitrogen into the Mississippi river. There, it ultimately reaches the Gulf of Mexico, where it can fuel harmful algal blooms. This scenario occurs wherever agriculture and rivers co-exist, which means it can – and does – occur on every continent except Antarctica.

The Mississippi River watershed covers nearly half of the United States, including substantial amounts of farmland that contribute large amounts of nitrogen from fertilizer. Agricultural runoff flowing into river basins and ultimately to the sea and fuelling harmful algal blooms is occurring around the world.

A very popular example is the damage of the Great Barrier Reef near Australia. It is the biggest reef we know on earth and contributes to a diverse population on fish. It is a fact almost beyond comprehension: In the summer of 2015, more than 2 billion corals lived in the Great Barrier Reef. Half of them are now dead.

Algal and cyanobacterial toxins cause a range of illness in humans and wildlife. Toxins can cause disease when swallowed or when they touch the skin. If ingested, these toxins most often cause headaches, vomiting, diarrhoea, and numbness or tingling. They are also toxic to wildlife.

What are conditions, which make Algal Bloom developing? Recent research has found that warming oceans have expanded the range of the northern Atlantic and Pacific oceans in which harmful algal blooms can occur.

Recent research has also shown that ocean acidification may promote even more abundant and toxic algal blooms.

Malaria’s Impact

Ever been bitten by a mosquito? Depending on where you were when that happened the bite could have been merely an itchy nuisance or the beginnings of a life-threatening disease. Malaria, a parasitic disease transmitted through the bite of a mosquito, is a major global health challenge. Each year, more than 200 million people – mostly in lowland tropical areas – are estimated to contract malaria and more than 400,000 people, mostly children younger than 5, die. Almost half of the Earth’s population currently live in areas where malaria can be transmitted.

The impact of many diseases is measured in DALYs: Disability-Adjusted Life-Years. The greater the DALYs, the worse things are. The map below shows the DALYs associated with malaria round the world.

Map: Malaria DALYs per 100,000 pop

The impact of the climate change of the life cycle of mosquitos and Malaria, we explain in the following part.

Mosquito life cycle

The reproduction of malarial parasites involves stages in mosquitoes and in humans (including periods of time in liver cells and blood cells). You can see quick overviews of the mosquito life cycle above and malaria life cycle below. Note that the mosquitoes lay their eggs in water. The parasites have a lifecycle that includes time inside the human body and inside a mosquito. The time the parasite spends developing in the mosquito, where it is exposed to outdoor temperatures, is known as the extrinsic incubation period.

The following diagrams show the ideal temperatures for the life of mosquitos. This gives an indication, how and where Malaria can spread out with increasing temperatures on earth.

The optimal development temperature for mosquitos and malaria will spread out with rising earth temperature to high land regions and regions, in which mosquitos cannot live today due to the lower temperature.

Malaria transmission factors

Nutrition

Greenhouse gases will affect crop yields through several pathways as illustrated in the diagram below. The extensive connections between crop yields and greenhouse gas emissions make nutritional outcomes a key to understanding the health effects of climate change. Lower Crop Yields Flowchart

Heat, Ozone, and Crops

More heat also will drive additional ground level ozone production, and ozone can impair plant growth and damage leaves.

The bar graphs below show estimated yield changes between 2000 and 2050 due to warming temperatures with climate change and/or ground level ozone.

The pie graphs show the percent of the world total production by country or region of each of major food crops.

Change in crop yield

The above picture shows, the crop yield will become strongly reduced, in the tropic regions, were today we have a dense population. This will provoke that people have the need to move to other regions. These changes will have health impact due to the movements. migration and due to change of nutrition.     

Salinization of Coastal Groundwater

Sea level rise makes salinization of coastal groundwater more likely. As sea level rises, the pressure of salt water to intrude through rock and earth into aquifers rises, which drives salty water into fresh water.

How sea water rise salinizes ground water!

CO2 and Crops

Experiments have demonstrated that exposure to elevated carbon dioxide levels can substantially decrease the nutrient content of staple crops.

1.4 billion children aged 1-5 and women of childbearing age live in countries where iron deficiency prevalence is >20%. In these countries, the iron supply could fall by 3.8% based upon the foods consumed in their current diets and the detrimental effects of higher carbon dioxide levels on iron content of crops, as illustrated below.

Percent Change in Plant Nutrition between 380ppm CO2 and 550ppm CO2

Fishes disappear due to overfishing but also due to acid and to hot water. They are going to colder regions.

All the above shown changes in the diet of people can provoke nutritional diseases.

Nutritional diseases are conditions that effect the human body due to its food intake. Their strongest and most widespread effects are on children, the elderly and women of child bearing age. Each nutrient has a different set of diseases that can be induced by over- or under-consumption.

Nutritional diseases are sometimes referred to as nutritional deficiencies or malnutrition, but this overlooks the (comparatively new) issue of overnutrition, which can lead to obesity.

Macronutrients include carbohydrates, fiber, fat, essential fatty acids and protein. Protein deficiencies can lead to a variety of issues, from kwashiorkor to birth defects. An excess of protein may lead to increased kidney stone formation.

Micronutrients are primarily vitamins and minerals. Many have well documented and specific effects caused by deficiency: low vitamin C causes scurvy; low calcium causes osteoporosis. Others have broader effects: low zinc intake can result in a broad variety of issues from depressed growth to skin lesions to diarrhoea. There are often connections between various nutrients: for instance, it is difficult for the human body to absorb calcium without vitamin D.

Some micronutrients (like vitamin C) can be tolerated in doses much larger than what is needed by the body. Others (like iron) can cause severe issues in overdose, especially in children. Taking in more micronutrients than the minimum the body needs does generally not show any health benefits. The following diagram shows the connections which provoked migration and the health impact

The United Nations estimates that an unprecedented number of people – more than 65 million – have currently had to move against their will from their homes. About 22 million have moved outside their home countries and are refugees and the vast majority are hosted in developing nations. About 40 million are internally displaced within their home countries and are so called “internally displaced persons” or IDPs.

Each year since 2008, more than 20 million people have been forced to migrate due to extreme weather.

Conclusion

The already visible effects of climate change impacts the health of a lot of population already. Infection, migration,  impact on crop yields, water shortages and wildfires are jeopardising the health of more and more people and we come closer to the point that we have not any more enough healthy food for the world population.

What is most importand: the climate change and the increasing impact of CO2, ozone and particulate matter has already influenced our living conditions a lot. It is mandatory, to react now consequently. We anyhow will only be able to slow down the climate change. It is hard for me to believe we can stop it completely. Nevertheless, we are talking about, to assure several 100 years live for humans on earth. But with every degree temperature rise and rising CO2 emissions, the living conditions are becoming more and more challanging.

To show these interactions was the intention of the two articles.

Climate change impact on human health part1

Even if some politician on this world still ignore the fact of climate change, it takes place. Let us short recapitulate the effects.

Earth has several gases in its atmosphere that trap heat, including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O). These three gases, and others, retain heat and make the climate of the earth what it is, and the one in which all life that exists depends on for survival.

Many forces contribute to the Earth’s average overall temperature, including…

    Its orbit around the sun, which is more elliptical than circular.

    How hot the sun is – its temperature varies over time.

    How reflective the Earth’s surface is (white stuff, like ice caps, reflect light).

…but the temperature of our planet is most substantially influenced by the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.

When greenhouse gases trap heat, they raise the temperature of air, but also of water, and especially water in the oceans.

Where is global warming going?

Greenhouse gas make that we have higher temperatures and the air contains more water. This brings heavier snow and rain falls.

But carbon dioxide has other effects on our planet that may be just as important for our health as its effects on the climate.

About 30% of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere from human activities, such as burning fossil fuels, is absorbed into the world’s oceans. As it gets absorbed, it produces carbonic acid, which makes the world’s oceans more acidic.

Plants breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen. When concentrations of carbon dioxide in the air rise, plants change in ways that have consequences for health.

The largest modifier of the health impacts of climate change is human behaviour, including the policies we create to protect health from climate change. It is important to understand the three main ways through which human action can reduce the effect of climate change on human beings:

–             Through adaptation policies and actions to protect health from climate impacts (the black  area in the graph below).

–             Through mitigation, such as reducing emissions in the first place (the dark blue area).

–             Through health co-benefits – reaping health gains from climate-friendly policies and    individual behaviour (the light blue area).

Heat related health issues

Most people enjoy a warm summer’s day, but even for those who love sun and heat the most, very hot temperatures can be dangerous. In recent years, severe heatwaves around the world have led to the deaths of tens of thousands of people External link, either from the effects of heat itself or because of air pollution that heatwaves can generate. In the future, heat-related illnesses are likely to get even worse.

Heat stroke and heat exhaustion will become much more common as temperature rise, especially for those who live in tropical regions or who work outdoor. These has serious repercussions for the elderly and for the obese, who have more difficulties shedding excess heat. People at risk with heart failure and individuals with diabetes are also at increased risk.

Human cooling mechanism:

Ozone

By burning fossil fuels, we emit ozone to the environment.

Inhaling ozone is bad for our lungs. When ozone contacts our lungs, it causes inflammation that makes it hard to breathe for all people, but especially those with existing lung diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Ozone is formed when by-products of fossil fuel combustion, including oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are exposed to ultraviolet radiation from the sun, as is shown in the figure below.

Wildfires and particulate matter

Because climate change causes heatwaves and more severe droughts, it creates conditions favourable to wildfires. During a particularly hot and dry spell in eastern Europe in 2010, thousands of fires burned an area of forest roughly the size of Indiana (38,600 square miles or ~100,000 square kilometres) burned. The smoke from the fires, however, would have stretched from San Francisco to Chicago. The air pollution produced by the fires killed tens of thousands of people.

When forests burn, they produce smoke that is comprised of many toxic substances, as shown in the image below.

Harmful substances in smoke from wildfires includes acrolein (a lung irritant), carbon monoxide (which can be fatal at high concentrations); formaldehyde, benzene, and polyaromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs (all of which can cause cancer); and particulate matter (PM).

PM2.5 refers to particulate matter that is 2.5 microns in diameter or smaller in size. You may also see references to PM10, 10 microns in size, which is considered less harmful but can still be dangerous.

Very fine beach sand is about 90 microns in size. Human hair is about 50-70 microns in size. PM ten is under 10 microns, and PM two point five is under 2.5 microns.

PM2.5 is about 1/20th the width of a human hair. Research on PM2.5 has clearly demonstrated that when people breathe it in, it can be deadly, particularly by causing heart attacks and strokes. Worldwide, PM exposures is responsible for millions of deaths each year. PM exposure has also been associated with preterm birth, lung cancer, and a host of other diseases. Exposure to air pollution is the 4th highest-ranking risk factor for death in the world.

Allergies and Asthma

Pollen is a major contributor to seasonal allergies and can cause asthma attacks. Warming temperatures have substantially lengthened the season during which plants that produce allergenic pollen can survive.

At the same time, higher carbon dioxide concentrations in the air are contributing to greater pollen output from ragweed plants.

The pollen production per ragweed plant was 5 grams in the year 1900, 12.5 grams in the year 2000, and will be over 20 grams in the year 2060.

Figure courtesy of Harvard. Data from Rising CO2 and pollen production of common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia L.), a known allergy-inducing species: implications for public health.

The data shown in the graph are based upon experiments in a lab in which ragweed plants were grown under different carbon dioxide concentrations (280, 370 or 600ppm). The higher the carbon dioxide concentration, the more pollen was produced. Remember, today the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration is well above 400ppm, which means the amount of pollen produced by ragweed plants may be twice than that at the start of the 20th century.

Other allergenic plants are influenced by elevated carbon dioxide, including poison ivy. Poison ivy has been shown to grow larger and produce more allergenic urshiol (the compound in poison ivy responsible for causing an allergic reaction) when grown under higher carbon dioxide concentrations

The Basics of Vector-borne Disease

Insects are cold blooded creatures (or “ectotherms”), and so must seek out warmer or cooler environments to regulate their body temperatures. The intensification of the water cycle with climate change is particularly relevant to mosquito reproduction which occurs in water. The parasites and viruses carried by insect vectors also are temperature sensitive.

Rainfall can substantially influence risk of vector-borne disease. Research on Dengue in Guangzhou China, Taiwan and elsewhere documents that rainfall is associated with dengue outbreaks. Rain creates pools of water that can be breeding habitat for juvenile mosquitos. However, too much rain can wash away these pools, and with them, the developing mosquitos.

Somewhat counterintuitively, droughts may also promote vector-borne disease outbreaks. During droughts, people may be more likely to use containers to store water, and mosquitos can breed in these containers.

Warming combined with changes in the water cycle have raised concern about how climate change may influence the spread of vector-borne diseases.

Here we will focus on malaria in the next article. Let’s move now on to waterborne diseases.

Waterborne Disease

Greenhouse gas emissions arguably have equal if not greater relevance to the distribution and spread of waterborne diseases as vector-borne diseases around the world. From Vibrio bacteria that cause cholera and other diseases, to ciguatera fish poisoning and shellfish poisoning and harmful algal blooms, warming temperatures and more intense precipitation may favour waterborne disease outbreaks.

The graphic below illustrates how climate related events, such as heavy precipitation, can contribute to outbreaks of waterborne disease. Rainfall washes pathogens contained in animal and human excrement into sewer systems and eventually into local water bodies where water may be drawn from for drinking or crop irrigation. Warmer temperatures may promote growth of pathogens.

Cities and Sewers

Some cities have drain pipes that carry stormwater run-off and sewage together. These so-called combined sewer systems can be found in many cities around the world, particularly those that had systems built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. At the time of their construction, the amount of sewage and rainfall were less than today. Engineers accounted for the potential of population growth but not necessarily for the heavier downpours occurring with climate change.

When the combined sewer pipes reach capacity, the sewer systems have outfall pipes that drain into local waterbodies to prevent sewage backing up into peoples’ homes and onto streets (see figure below).

Research on cities and regions in the United States with combined sewers may be more likely to have E. coli contaminated water and higher rates of emergency room visits after extreme rainfall events. (For further studies see Patz et al. 2008 External link, Kleidorfer et al. 2009. 2009  and Nilsen et al. 2011).

Even cities with combined sewer systems, however, have been able to substantially reduce discharges of untreated sewage through a variety of actions. These include planting more vegetation and reducing the number of paved surfaces (which keeps more storm run-off out of the sewer system). Sound familiar? It should – these are the same interventions that prevent urban heat islands and so they provide a double dividend to health.

Regardless of sewer system design, heavier rainfall has been shown to promote outbreaks of waterborne diseases, including hepatitis A, cryptosporidiosis, Vibrios, and leptospirosis as well as enteric pathogens, such as E. coli that causes diarrheal disease.

In parts of the world without sewer systems heavier rains also can promote waterborne disease outbreaks but so too can a lack of rain. Infectious pathogens may be more likely to contaminate freshwater supplies when, for instance, water is scarce.

Summary

This article shows a part of the health problems we have, and which will rise by the climate change. In the next article, which will be published within the next two weeks, we would like to complete the picture and to draw some conclusion out of it.

The Federal council of Germany considered the climate agreements of Paris

On 7th of October 2016, the federal council, which is the assembly of the federal states of Germany and a constitutional body, decided, they will allow from 2030 onwards to register only cars, which are CO2 neutral. That means, they will not allow any more to register combustion engine driven cares from 2030 onwards.

This should have now followers, because it is a logical step, if countries tread the decision, done in the climate conference in Paris, seriously. A combustion engine care has a lifetime of about 20 years. If people tread the target to be 2050 CO2 neutral seriously, they have to forbid selling combustion engines in 2030. A logical step, which has to be done in every country, who signed the agreement of Paris.

I would even go further and require, that until that time, it is also assured that electrical energy is not anymore produced out of fossil sources or critical sources like nuclear energy. Only if we produce electricity out of renewable energies and use them for everything, we fulfill the criteria, defined in the Paris assembly.

I fear for Germany at present time the activities of the executive. The minister for transport questioned immediately that decision. From the ministry of energy we heard no statement so far. The execution of this decision is difficult and needs characters, which are capable to apply this. Bothe ministries have not performed adequately in the past. I hope, the ministries will apply certain logic in their doings. Otherwise I hope that the election in 2017 will clarify the situation.

Thank you very much to the federal council, to bring a discussion up, which should have had took place already years ago.

Now we have to care, the lobbies will not eliminate this logic. This can be a sign for the world, if local short term interests will not kill it.

Great ideas are not always immediately appreciated

We have seen many great ideas capable changing our planet from the prophets. Some were already put in place, but have not been given a chance to succeed. This article will discuss and analyze why that happens.

                My first example is the great idea to establish the European Union. Europe is a small continent composed of many small countries. The countries are developed, but each having its own currency and interests meant it could never compete against countries like the U.S. or China. Even competition against Japan seemed impossible. The solution was the foundation of the European Union. At the beginning it developed quiet well. Countries agreed on free trade and common standards. But every country fought to maintain its sovereignty. It’s not about different cultures or  traditions, which should be kept. The fight was over power. By applying a common currency, the countries can maintain sovereignty and go their one way. Due to the debt crisis in Greece, the whole European Union started to struggle. Greece’s BIP is only 2.5% of the BIP of the European Union. Can this really be a problem for the European Union? Yes it can. Greece is sovereign and the influence of the European Union is limited. The great idea of the European Union is jeopardized by the lack of ability to resign from power and sovereignty. 

The problem becomes bigger when dealing with issues that require agreements among countries from other continents. It is nearly impossible to reach an agreement on global issues. This issue is not only apparent when reaching an accord on North Korea or Syria; it is particularly visible in the worldwide problem of global warming and the need for a global energy policy. The idea for such a policy was overcome global warming and energy problems by using only renewable energy such as wind, water energy, photovoltaic energy, thermal-solar energy and biomass. These are the only energy sources that have little impact on the environment and are available as long as life on earth is possible.

We are working with alternatives that have a limited time of possible usage, and we are blocking the development of renewable energy. Different countries are applying different technologies. There are countries focusing on “fracking” to find gas and oil. The environmental Impact of these technologies is not verified today, but the countries are investing heavily in this solution. This solution is, for me, the worst one possible. These countries are investing in a technology that is jeopardizing the environment for a solution that will, in the best-case scenario, postpone the end of oil and gas availability by not more than 20 years.  In the end, these countries have to invest two times: first to make the fracking technology available, and again for a final solution. Some countries are focusing on gas technology. This emits less CO2, but it is still an energy source that has limited availability and will only be a survival solution. Some countries are still focusing on nuclear power. This is not only a bad economic behavior, it is simply irresponsible. After Chernobyl and Fukushima, and knowing that there is no solution for  waste treatment, it is irresponsible to build nuclear power plants.

Different countries are going different ways in the energy future, but long-term thinking allows only the “sun” energies. All other solutions are not safe, do not address the CO2 balance, and are only temporary. Why we are ready to pay the bill twice on the way to a sustainable energy future?

It is the same reason we stop halfway to a European Union. Individual interests and lobbying are blocking great ideas. These ideas will come sooner or later, but today the people in power are blocking them to assure their own interests.

It seems to be a rule: Big chances create winners and loser. As long as the people who will lose power or money have the ability, they will fight against change. A lot of big changes are delayed or blocked. I see a big political responsibility if we don’t want to pay the bill for sustainable energy twice. Politicians have to ensure that roadblocks to a sustainable future are removed. Can they do that?

Antidumping duties are not the solution for a healthy photovoltaic market.

The U.S. rise in antidumping duties against Chinese photovoltaic modules. This did not really break the development of photovoltaic in the US. Now, the European Union is investigating the Chinese photovoltaic industry to determine whether unfair trade conditions exist. In June of this year, they will make their decision about this subject. Prognos conducted a study, which concluded that, in the case that the European Union will apply antidumping duties of 60%, 190,000 workplaces in Europe will be lost. If the European Union will apply antidumping duties of 30%, 135, 000 workplaces will be lost. The study assumes that the market for big project solar power plants will drop dramatically if the prices for solar modules rise above the current Chinese module prices.

All these assumptions may be right. The target has to be to establish a healthy market environment, which is the only guarantee for creating sustainable market conditions. Antidumping duties are not the tools with which to establish these conditions. These kinds of duties are only destroying the markets. Even for China, it is not possible to subsidize the photovoltaic market in the long term. After finishing the subsidies, the market will be in the same shape as it was, as the German government drastically reduced its feed in tariffs.  Many companies will come into difficulties then. Due to the fact that these companies never did feel real market conditions, they will not be capable of adapting to the markets in an acceptable time. Antidumping duties and subsidies are only postponing the challenge of establishing a worldwide photovoltaic market.

What are the possible solutions? The only possibility to come to healthy market conditions is to start talking to each other. Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, proposed discussions with the Chinese government during her visit last year to China. I did not see that these discussions started. Additionally, without these discussions, the antidumping duties are on their way to becoming implemented. However, discussing with each other is a precondition to solve problems.

The unpredictable and hesitating politic is in the process of destroying future technology. Even the latest Shell study clearly indicates the leading role of photovoltaic for long-term energy production. In this way, first subsidizing this technology, then destroying and then discovering that it is really needed to build up a long-term energy supply, we pay the bill more than one time.

My clear demand would be the following: The politics and the industry have to discuss on a world-wide scale in order to release the photovoltaic to the free market and to not interfere anymore. I am convinced that in several months, we will see how a healthy economical industry will find its way.

We are preparing destroying our planet

A lot of past efforts have attempted to introduce policies to stop global warming and allow for world ecological developments. Worldwide conferences took place and targets have been selected. When it comes time to implement such changes, however, the different countries decide that they see difficulties in achieving these targets, so they change their policies. At present, it looks like, that we are trying to forget the risks of global warming and those caused by nuclear power plants. Every single country is going this way, seeking the biggest short-term profits and hoping that the world will survive until the end of today’s decision makers’ lifespans.

In studies about the future of our energy supply, we are currently considering three scenarios:

(Enerdata – Global Energy Forecasting)

Looking at these three scenarios, we can say that at the present time we are behaving according to the “Balance Scenario.” Energy prices are rising, and there is no commitment to global policies. Now we are faced with a technical development, which makes it probable that we will choose the scenario that provides us with growth in the oil and gas sector combined with nuclear power production. In the U. S., large amounts of oil sands have been found. This, the U. S. will exploit through fracking processes. There has been a lot of progress made during the last year. The general fracking procedure is explained in the graphic below. China is, to a certain extent, using renewable energies. However, this is not sufficient to keep up with the Chinese population and industry growth. So, China intends to build a significant number of nuclear power plants. These will not disperse CO2 but will come with a lot of other risks and the problem of determining what to do with nuclear waste.

None of these developments are focusing on the “Emergence” scenario, which is the only one guiding us to a long-term, sustainable future.

Economic interests and short-term political actions are,  at the present time, hindering the development of our sustainable future. Not stopping these developments will lead us to a bleak future. We are on the way to destroying our planet.

 

Electroluminescence shows the quality of photovoltaic modules

A wise old proverb says, “Quality has to be produced, not approved.” What can we learn from this wisdom for the production of crystalline photovoltaic modules? It tells us that we have to use electroluminescence tests during production and not only as a final test of the modules.

Let us firstly briefly examine what we can see with an electroluminescence test. Electroluminescence relies on the same principle as a light emitting diode (LED). Current is fed into a solar cell (essentially a large diode), and radiative recombination of carriers causes light emission. Most of the recombination in silicon, which is an indirect bandgap semiconductor, occurs via defects or Auger recombination. The amount of band-to-band recombination producing radiative emission is relatively low. However, there is a small amount of radiative recombination that happens even in silicon, and this signal can be sensed using an external detector. The technique requires electrical contact and so can only be used once the metallization has been applied and the cell is substantially complete. Electroluminescence provides a wealth of data about the area-related uniformity of solar cells and modules. It is non-destructive and relatively fast, with measurement times of 1 s possible.

The luminescence signal of silicon peaks at 1150 nm, corresponding to the energy of the bandgap.

Electroluminescence has become increasingly popular with the advent of low cost silicon CCD arrays. They are similar to the ones used for digital cameras, but optimized for sensitivity in the near-infrared and cool to reduce thermal noise.

The key advantage, as noted above, is the ability of electroluminescence to image an entire solar cell or module in a relatively short time. The light output increases with the local voltage, such that regions with poor contact show up as dark.

Electroluminescence image of a monocrystalline silicon wafer. The intensity of the light given off is proportional to the voltage, so poorly contacted and inactive regions show up as dark areas. The microcrack and printing problem are not detectable through visual inspection.

Due to further cost reduction, photovoltaic cells are becoming thinner and thinner. This makes them much more sensitive not only to mechanical stress, but also to temperature influences during the production process. To assure high quality modules in the end, we have to monitor all relevant production processes using electroluminescence images. This gives us the ability to feedback control the production processes and react immediately in case of deviations. Using electroluminescence during the production of photovoltaic cells and modules assures high quality and controlled production processes and makes it possible to produce thinner cells and, as a result, further reduce cost.

Why not photovoltaic? Discussed on the example Europe.

Nothing is turning, nothing is moving, but it provides energy: that is photovoltaic. It is predictable for the different regions. Why it is as much under critic at present time?  Let us answer this question in this article.

Photovoltaic made the biggest progress within the last 2 years compared to all renewable energies. The prices for panels dropped by factor 4 from 2 Euro/Watt peak to 50Eurocent/ Watt peak. That is the biggest progress for all the renewable energies in such a short period of time. It is coming with this progress to grid parity. That means, that the energy produced by photovoltaic is price wise comparable to fossil energies. Why the photovoltaic is still under discussion and not simply used as an economical solution for energy production?

Looking to the availability of sun energy, we can see in the picture below, that surely the sun irradiation is higher in south Europe than is northern Europe. So the efficiency of sun power production will be higher in southern Europe. On the other hand, the northern part of Europe shows higher efficiency to produce wind energy. This is less efficient in the southern part of Europe. The logic would be for me, to focus in the northern part of Europe more on wind energy and in the southern part more on sun energy. To produce in both parts of Europe will reduce the transmission costs and will assure more stability in the grid.

 

 

Because solar and wind energy will become for Europe long-term the dominating energy sources, Europe has to deal with the intermittency of this energies. Biogas, natural Gas and Geothermic will become a stabilizing role, but it cannot completely solve the problem of the intermittency of this energies.

 

The picture above shows the four working areas, to solve the problem of intermittent energy production.

On the interconnection of the grids, the storages, the optimization of the demand side and a flexible usage of renewable energy sources we should focus.

It maid be necessary not to come meanwhile in difficulties of energy availability to build up a few gas power plants.  I personally cannot understand is to keep nuclear power in account. We have sufficient examples, that we cannot finally assure the safety of nuclear power plants and we have still no solution to store the nuclear waste. In Tschernobyl they are covering the destroyed reactor at present time with a new concert cover. The time to keep care on the Tschernobyl reactor needs another several hundreds of years. In Germany the nuclear waste in the final storage of “Asse 2” close to Wolfenbuettel has to be taken out and has to be brought to a safer place. We have no solution to assure the coverage of nuclear waste for the time it needs. So to use nuclear power as an intermediate solution to take the time to build up the renewable energies is irresponsible.

The proper mix of renewable energies is the only way in the future. To do this change in an economically adequate way is our responsibility

The energy production region for Europe is northern Africa.

The energy turnaround in Europe has started. Germany, especially, increases the share of renewable energies continuously. There are already several towns and villages that are completely independent of fossil energy. But this picture does not show the whole story.

It will be difficult to produce all of the energy needed throughout those countries in the European Union merely with renewable energies. Even to produce some more renewable energy in Europe directly will be possible, the gap to replace fossil energies completely is still big.. We have to keep in mind that 30% of the energy is used in households, 30% for transportation, and 30% by industry. My estimation is that Europe can produce only 50 to 60% of their energy use within Europe itself. Even the high demand for energy by industry would be difficult to source only within Europe.

Because of this, it makes sense for Europe to look to its neighbor to the south. There is a big potential in the North African deserts, which are not far from Europe and are not highly populated. There is an estimate of sourcing costs in the picture below for the year 2015. It shows that we should really start to develop this region as an energy source.

Initiatives like DESERTEC are working to achieve this, and I think that they are close to making the energy turnaround in Europe complete.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why does DESERTEC have more critics than followers? Here we have the same problems seen in the German energy policies at present time: The interest of some companies and the strong lobby work of certain companies are hindering the success of these initiatives.

This is especially visible in Germany’s struggles to improve their grid to a powerful smart grid. Every day, they are facing new challenges.

It would be much more advisable for Germany’s energy lobby to participate in projects like DESERTEC to protect their business interests. In the long term, they will never be capable of hindering the inevitable energy changes that are coming.

Asia is taking the lead in the development and production of renewable energies.

For forty years already, we have seen a pattern of great technical developments shifting their main location from Europe to Asia. The German photo industry moved to Japan in the 1960s, and at the present time, only niche areas of this industry are present in Germany. The European ship building industry moved to Japan and is now mainly located in Korea and China. Even niches of technical industries typically do not fare well in Europe. The whole consumer goods industry, especially home entertainment, is dominated by Korea, Japan, and China. The only industries that have managed to retain a strong footprint in Europe are the car industry and the machine building industry. Both industries were also already in jeopardy of being eliminated in Europe by Japan and Korea. The strong technical developments that were initiated in these industries, however, could allow the European countries to gain back their leading role.

In Europe, a multitude of analysis has explored these developments. Nevertheless, Europeans did not learn the lessons these studies taught. Nearly ten years ago, Europe was developing the technologies for renewable energies, starting production and installation, and focusing on making renewable energies accessible. What is the status today, though?

China is already producing more wind turbines than Europe, and the Chinese companies are independent from any European company. For several years, they have been fully independent of European licenses. The photovoltaic industry is similar. The best photovoltaic cells are currently produced in Taiwan or Malaysia. European companies can only compete within a few niches against Asian photovoltaic cells. China has the greatest production capacity for photovoltaic cells, while the largest market is still Europe.

In light of these realities, we must ask whether these products are fairly traded. Even if the Chinese government provides subsidies for the photovoltaic and wind power companies, this does not explain why the European companies are falling behind the Asian companies in the realm of technology, and why Chinese companies are becoming more successful in other markets as well.

In my opinion, there are two main reasons why Europe is currently losing status in respect to renewable energies.

  1. Convenience behavior. The EEG law assured convenient conditions for the whole renewable energy industry. Product development, system developments, and process development did not maintain the necessary speed. The development of the grid began too late and was blocked by the big electricity companies. Now the discussion centers on the ideas that the energy turnaround of renewable energy is too expensive, and that having a grid in one’s surroundings is unacceptable—ideas that are slowing the speed of development in the industry. To compete against the Asian countries, the whole of European society has to leave its comfort zone and fight for its place in the world’s economy.
  2. Lack of capability to develop business models and services. Another weak point in European society is the fact that European countries are not as creative as Asian countries in developing business models and services. Europeans are used to the idea that other countries need their products and come to Europe to buy them. Thus, Europeans do not take enough care in providing the services that are needed for their products. They are not sufficiently developing technical services, financial services, and assistance with gaining permission for grid connection, security services, and other necessities. If European companies are not bringing the only outstanding product to the market, they must make their product outstanding due to the package they offer. However, offering such services is not a strong point in European industries.

Europe must change its mentality about marketing products, lest renewable energies continue going the way of ship building and consumer goods. Speed in development and creative business models will play a decisive role in shaping the future of Europe’s renewable energy industry.