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Assemblages of solar electricity: enacting power, time and weather at home in the United Kingdom and Sri Lanka

TURNER, BRITTA,ROSENLUND (2016) Assemblages of solar electricity: enacting power, time and weather at home in the United Kingdom and Sri Lanka. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis explores what happens to the social enquiry of the powers of energy, if energy technologies and electricity are taken seriously as actants. It questions how photovoltaic solar panels and solar electricity act in everyday lives in domestic homes and how a more material enquiry of them can help shed light on the ways in which photovoltaic technology is made to matter in different places. It proposes to contribute to the social enquiry of energy by providing an example of how the power of electricity can be investigated and analyzed as a contingent achievement of particular assemblages rather than a neutral resource and affordance.
Photovoltaic solar panels are enrolled in global discourses of environmental governance and sustainable development, and are employed not merely to generate electricity but also to have particular social powers: they generate electricity in different quantities and for different socio-political purposes in different places. As solar photovoltaic technology has gained momentum as a renewable energy technology that can be scaled and adjusted to fit different local and global matters of concern, it has also increasingly become part of different domestic homes, where it provides small portions of power for individual householders to use. This thesis considers two empirical settings where micro-generation solar is at work: in efforts to provide electricity to rural households in Sri Lanka and in efforts to reduce carbon emissions from households in the United Kingdom. The thesis argues that a tendency to focus on diffusion and social acceptance of solar in both policy and research has left gaps in our understanding of how solar works as a material force in everyday life after installation. The thesis engages with theories of assemblage and material agency and argues that the sustainability or green-ness of domestic solar power should not be considered an attribute of the technology, but rather seen as the achievement of a particular socio-material assemblage. It offers insights into how domestic solar is assembled and illustrates how solar electricity acts not as a neutral resource, which is handled and interpreted by human beings but rather as a spatially and temporally diverse force with properties and propensities, which encourage particular orderings of meaning and matter.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Solar; Photovoltaics; Electricity; Domestic; Assemblage; Energy; Ethnography; Prosumer;
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Geography, Department of
Thesis Date:2016
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:12 May 2016 15:05

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