The energy payback time (EPBT) of a power generating system is the time required to generate as much energy as is consumed during production and lifetime operation of the system. Due to improving production technologies the payback time has been decreasing constantly since the introduction of PV systems in the energy market.[128] In 2000 the energy payback time of PV systems was estimated as 8 to 11 years[129] and in 2006 this was estimated to be 1.5 to 3.5 years for crystalline silicon PV systems[121] and 1–1.5 years for thin film technologies (S. Europe).[121] These figures fell to 0.75–3.5 years in 2013, with an average of about 2 years for crystalline silicon PV and CIS systems.[130]
Most installers overrate the available wind resource. The majority of small wind turbine installations underperforms their predictions, often by a wide margin. Since wind speed is the most important parameter for turbine energy production, getting that wrong has large consequences (the power in the wind goes with the cube of the wind speed, so double the wind speed and the power in it is 2 * 2 * 2 = 8x as much). You have to be realistic about your annual average wind speed.
Since the 1970s, Brazil has had an ethanol fuel program which has allowed the country to become the world's second largest producer of ethanol (after the United States) and the world's largest exporter.[125] Brazil's ethanol fuel program uses modern equipment and cheap sugarcane as feedstock, and the residual cane-waste (bagasse) is used to produce heat and power.[126] There are no longer light vehicles in Brazil running on pure gasoline. By the end of 2008 there were 35,000 filling stations throughout Brazil with at least one ethanol pump.[127] Unfortunately, Operation Car Wash has seriously eroded public trust in oil companies and has implicated several high ranking Brazilian officials.
While the material cost is significantly higher for all-glass fiber blades than for hybrid glass/carbon fiber blades, there is a potential for tremendous savings in manufacturing costs when labor price is considered. Utilizing carbon fiber enables for simpler designs that use less raw material. The chief manufacturing process in blade fabrication is the layering of plies. By reducing the number of layers of plies, as is enabled by thinner blade design, the cost of labor may be decreased, and in some cases, equate to the cost of labor for glass fiber blades.[51]
Research is also undertaken in this field of artificial photosynthesis. It involves the use of nanotechnology to store solar electromagnetic energy in chemical bonds, by splitting water to produce hydrogen fuel or then combining with carbon dioxide to make biopolymers such as methanol. Many large national and regional research projects on artificial photosynthesis are now trying to develop techniques integrating improved light capture, quantum coherence methods of electron transfer and cheap catalytic materials that operate under a variety of atmospheric conditions.[119] Senior researchers in the field have made the public policy case for a Global Project on Artificial Photosynthesis to address critical energy security and environmental sustainability issues.[120]
Floating solar arrays are PV systems that float on the surface of drinking water reservoirs, quarry lakes, irrigation canals or remediation and tailing ponds. A small number of such systems exist in France, India, Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom, Singapore and the United States.[168][169][170][171][172] The systems are said to have advantages over photovoltaics on land. The cost of land is more expensive, and there are fewer rules and regulations for structures built on bodies of water not used for recreation. Unlike most land-based solar plants, floating arrays can be unobtrusive because they are hidden from public view. They achieve higher efficiencies than PV panels on land, because water cools the panels. The panels have a special coating to prevent rust or corrosion.[173] In May 2008, the Far Niente Winery in Oakville, California, pioneered the world's first floatovoltaic system by installing 994 solar PV modules with a total capacity of 477 kW onto 130 pontoons and floating them on the winery's irrigation pond.[174] Utility-scale floating PV farms are starting to be built. Kyocera will develop the world's largest, a 13.4 MW farm on the reservoir above Yamakura Dam in Chiba Prefecture[175] using 50,000 solar panels.[176][177] Salt-water resistant floating farms are also being constructed for ocean use.[178] The largest so far announced floatovoltaic project is a 350 MW power station in the Amazon region of Brazil.[179]

Efficiency can decrease slightly over time, one of the main reasons being dust and insect carcasses on the blades which alters the aerodynamic profile and essentially reduces the lift to drag ratio of the airfoil. Analysis of 3128 wind turbines older than 10 years in Denmark showed that half of the turbines had no decrease, while the other half saw a production decrease of 1.2% per year.[19] Ice accretion on turbine blades has also been found to greatly reduce the efficiency of wind turbines, which is a common challenge in cold climates where in-cloud icing and freezing rain events occur.[20] Vertical turbine designs have much lower efficiency than standard horizontal designs.[21]

Photovoltaics were initially solely used as a source of electricity for small and medium-sized applications, from the calculator powered by a single solar cell to remote homes powered by an off-grid rooftop PV system. Commercial concentrated solar power plants were first developed in the 1980s. The 392 MW Ivanpah installation is the largest concentrating solar power plant in the world, located in the Mojave Desert of California.