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Finite Element Method for Forecasting the Diffusion of Photovoltaic Systems: Why and How?
KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM), Industrial Economics and Management (Dept.), Sustainability and Industrial Dynamics. Universidad Politecnica de Madrid, Spain.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5617-1912
2016 (English)In: Applied Energy, ISSN 0306-2619, E-ISSN 1872-9118, Vol. 163, 464-475 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The Finite Element Method (FEM) has been used in the broad field of continuum mechanics in engineering disciplines for several decades. However, recently, some scholars have attempted to apply the method to social science phenomena. What is the scope of using FEM in social science-related fields?  Anchored in the literature on social sciences, this paper, firstly, reviews the scope of using FEM in social science phenomena, and then applies FEM to a semi-hypothetical case study on the diffusion of solar photovoltaic systems in southern Germany.  By doing so, the paper aims to shed light on why and how the Finite Element Method can be used to forecast the diffusion of solar photovoltaic systems in time and space. Unlike conventional models used in diffusion literature, the computational model considers spatial heterogeneity. The model is based on a partial differential equation that describes the diffusion ratio of photovoltaic systems in a given region over time. The results of the application show that the FEM constitutes a powerful tool by which to study the diffusion of an innovation as a simultaneous space-time process.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2016. Vol. 163, 464-475 p.
Keyword [en]
Innovation, Adoption, Spatiotemporal, Simulation, FEM, Renewable energy
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology) Economics
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-176848DOI: 10.1016/j.apenergy.2015.10.188ISI: 000369204500041ScopusID: 2-s2.0-84949008980OAI: diva2:897547

Updated from "Manuscript" to "Article". QC 20160126. QC 20160304

Available from: 2015-11-10 Created: 2015-11-10 Last updated: 2016-03-04Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Diffusion of dynamic innovations: A case study of residential solar PV systems
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Diffusion of dynamic innovations: A case study of residential solar PV systems
2015 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In the literature on diffusion of innovations, it is widely known that the characteristics and socio-environmental settings of adopters do evolve in space and time. What about innovations themselves? During the diffusion process, don’t some innovations continuously alter in space and time? If so, how does the dynamic character of an innovation influence the diffusion process? In previous research, it has been often assumed that innovations do not continuously alter or get modified when diffusing from a source to potential adopters. This assumption may mean that the innovation is invariant as it diffuses in time and space—i.e., the innovation does not have a continuously dynamic character. Is it always the case in practice?   

A single form of an innovation is not always necessarily compatible with the preferences, limitations, and residential settings of adopters. The innovation might appear in different forms when it diffuses in space and time, i.e., it is “dynamic”. This PhD thesis aims to explore how dynamic innovations diffuse in space and time—a relatively understudied topic in research. In doing so, it distinguishes between the diffusion of dynamic innovations and other kinds of innovations. Anchored on the case of diffusion of residential solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, this thesis is composed of a cover essay and six appended papers. The first two appended papers are systematic literature reviews, aiming at understanding the state of the art of the theoretical and contextual research domains. The third paper is based on a case study in southern Germany and explores the diffusion of a dynamic innovation at adopter level. The fourth paper is empirically focused on a local firm’s business model, which is assumed to be a key to understanding the mechanism behind the diffusion of dynamic innovations. The fifth paper is based on lead market hypothesis and tries to explore the diffusion of innovations at the regional level. The sixth paper studies a semi-hypothetical case and offers an innovative method to forecast the diffusion of innovations in general.

The contribution of this PhD thesis lies in three research dimensions: context, method, and theory. Firstly, the thesis takes the existing theories (e.g., diffusion of innovations theory and lead market hypothesis) and methods (e.g., case study) and applies them in different contexts of the diffusion of residential solar PV systems: the individual, sub-national, and national level. Secondly, it proposes a new research method, namely the finite element method for forecasting the diffusion of innovations, based on an existing theory (e.g., wave-like diffusion of innovations in time and space) and context (e.g., solar PV systems). Last but not least, the cover essay of this thesis takes the findings of the appended papers and employs an extension of theory of diffusion of innovations. In doing so, it includes the role of the dynamic characteristic of innovations that do alter in time and space during the diffusion process.

Overall, the findings of this thesis indicate that the diffusion of dynamic innovations is different in nature, and continuous efforts of change agents are critical for enhancing the diffusion of such innovations. Change agents are especially important to help potential adopters to find out and develop the form of innovation that best fits their needs, limits, and preferences, which are heterogeneous in space and time. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Sweden: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2015. xiii, 71 p.
TRITA-IEO, ISSN 1100-7982 ; 2015:09
Dynamic innovations, diffusion, residential solar, photovoltaics, time, space
National Category
Economics and Business Sociology
Research subject
Industrial Engineering and Management
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-177020 (URN)978-91-7595-763-0 (ISBN)
Public defence
2015-12-11, E2, Lindstedtsvägen 3, KTH, Stockholm, 14:00 (English)
European Doctorate in Industrial Management

QC 20151117

Available from: 2015-11-17 Created: 2015-11-13 Last updated: 2016-02-15Bibliographically approved

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