Critical Review

The 52nd Annual A&WMA Critical Review

Thursday, June 30, 8:00 am - 10:30 am, Bayview B
Sponsored by:

Circular Economy for Clean Energy Technologies – Critical Review, Status, Challenges, and Opportunities

Authors: Drs. Garvin Heath and Dwarak Ravikumar, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)

Dr. Garvin Heath is an inaugural Distinguished Member of the Research Staff at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), USA, specializing in the analysis of environmental impacts of energy systems – renewable and conventional, electricity and fuels. He is also a member of the State of Colorado’s Air Quality Enterprise Board and is a Senior Research Associate in the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute at the University of Colorado. Using the tools of life cycle assessment, air quality modeling, and sustainability analysis, he has led research that has developed novel methods for quantifying environmental impacts, including circularity, that has been published in Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, journals published by Nature Research, and international benchmark reports (IPCC, UNEP). Dr. Heath leads the International Energy Agency’s Photovoltaic Power Systems (PVPS) Technology Collaboration Programme Task 12: Sustainability. Dr. Heath is an interdisciplinary scientist and engineer with a B.S. in Environmental Science from Brown University, M.S. in Environmental (air quality) Engineering, and M.S. and Ph.D. in Energy and Resources from the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California, Berkeley.

Dr. Dwarak Ravikumar is a Scientist at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), USA, with M.S. and Ph.D. in Civil, Environmental, and Sustainable Engineering from Arizona State University, and has completed a 2-year post-doctoral Research Fellowship at the University of Michigan. Dr. Ravikumar’s research focuses on operationalizing a circular economy for renewable energy infrastructure systems, especially photovoltaics (PV), and carbon dioxide through carbon capture and utilization (CCU). He is an expert in life cycle assessment and techno-economic analysis in both mature and low technology readiness level applications, as well as developing multicriteria decision analysis to integrate the economic, environmental, and social impacts and, thereby, develop a more holistic sustainability assessment of circular economy strategies. Dr. Ravikumar has also developed novel recycling approaches for PV and methodologically advanced the practice of life cycle assessment for low technology readiness level applications through an anticipatory approach. Over the course of his circular economy research, Dr. Ravikumar has collaborated extensively with diverse stakeholders such as industry, non-governmental organizations, national labs, and universities.
In the 52nd Annual A&WMA Critical Review, Drs. Heath and Ravikumar will examine the topic of the circular economy for clean energy technologies. Recent research projects up to nearly 1.6 TW of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity in the United States by 2050, alongside 1.6 TW of storage capacity, mostly from batteries. With such massive scales of deployment, questions have arisen regarding issues of material supply, end of life management, environmental and societal impacts, and economic costs. A set of solutions to address these issues center on the development of a circular economy – shifting from a take-use-waste linear economic model to one that retains the value of materials and products as long as possible, recovering materials at end of life to recirculate back into the economy. With limited global experience, researchers have begun to investigate circular economy pathways, and are especially interested in applying novel technologies and analytical methods to fast growing sectors like renewable energy. This Critical Review aims to synthesize this growing literature to identify key insights, gaps and opportunities for research and implementation of a circular economy of two leading renewable energy technologies – solar PV and lithium-ion batteries (LIB). The authors employ the PRISMA systematic literature procedures to comprehensively review over 3,000 journal articles and government reports on the circular economy of solar PV and LIB, categorizing those that pass a series of objectives screens in ways that can illuminate the current state-of-the-art, highlight existing impediments to a circular economy and recommend future technological and analytical research. As far as the authors are aware, this will be the first paper to not only authoritatively identify, synthesize, and critically review the status, challenges, and opportunities for all circular economy pathways for each of these technologies individually, but also to draw out parallels across the leading clean energy technologies holistically.
The full-length paper will appear in the June 2022 issue of the Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association (JA&WMA) and its conclusions will be presented live as part of the 2022 A&WMA Annual Conference & Exhibition in San Francisco, CA. Following the review presentation, a panel of invited experts will critique the presentation and offer their own views on the topic. Invited discussants will represent key stakeholder groups, including federal and state agencies; researchers; industry experts; NGOs; and community action groups. Comments also will be solicited from the floor during a live question-and-answer sequence to end the session. To complete the review process, the Critical Review Committee Chair will synthesize all of the discussion points into a single Discussion Paper that will be published in the October 2022 issue of JA&WMA.
Invited discussants will offer different perspectives on the Review and will be asked to identify additional issues and offer alternative commentary based on their scientific expertise. Confirmed discussants include: 

Stephanie L. Shaw, Ph.D.
Technical Executive, Electric Power Research Institute
Expertise: End-of-life management of solar photovoltaics (PV), wind turbines, and batteries

Chih C. Chao, Ph.D., P.Eng.
Principal, Cantech Environmental Services, Toronto
Expertise: Sustainability and circular economy

Brian Tarroja, Ph.D., P.E.
Manager, Energy Systems Integration, Advanced Power and Energy Program
University of California, Irvine
Expertise: Strategies for a decarbonized energy system
Gerald Braun
Founder and Director, Integrated Renewable Energy Systems Network (IRESN)
Expertise: Renewable energy integration

About the Critical Review
For more than 50 years, A&WMA has solicited and published in the Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association (JA&WMA) an Annual Critical Review on a topic of critical importance to the air and waste management fields. Each year, the review author presents the Annual Critical Review during A&WMA’s Annual Conference & Exhibition. The Critical Review Committee, which is a subcommittee of the Publications Committee, selects the review topics, solicits the authors/presenters, offers editorial guidance and critiques to the review authors, reviews the final manuscript before publication, and selects the participants for the panel discussion that follows the review presentation. 

Complete list of past Critical Reviews
A&WMA Critical Review Committee Charter and Manual of Operations
A&WMA Critical Review Committee