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Sustainability of Photovoltaic System´s Manufacture, Operation and Decommissioning in Future Net-Zero Emissions Scenarios-8
A. Urbina
Environmental Effect, PV Materials, LCA, CO2 Footprint
Energy Transition – Integration, Storage, Sustainability, Policy, Economics, Energy Poverty, Society
Subtopic: Sustainability, Environment, and Circularity of PV
Event: 8th World Conference on Photovoltaic Energy Conversion
Session: 5DO.14.2
1547 - 1550
ISBN: 3-936338-86-8
Paper DOI: 10.4229/WCPEC-82022-5DO.14.2
0,00 EUR
Document(s): paper


In this research work, a study about the sustainability of photovoltaic technologies has been carried out following Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology. Fifteen midpoint environmental impact categories have been analyzed; the focus is put on commercial technologies comprising more than 99% of current market (crystalline silicon and thin film). Despite crystalline silicon solar cells being the dominant technology, either already commercial thin film or emerging technologies may provide the same electricity (considered as a functional unit of life cycle assessment) with lower environmental impacts. By using a combination of data from LCA inventories and the estimated capacity to be installed in the coming years, a quantitative result has been calculated at midpoint impact categories and aggregated in four endpoint categories (global warming potential, human health, resources depletion and ecosystem impacts). In the horizon of future PV system deployment for the case scenario described in the NZE2050 model of the International Energy Agency, the risk arising from mineral production is analyzed, showing for c-Si that only silver could pose some risk, while other thin film technologies depend on critical minerals. The need to increase the recyclability and material recovery for all PV technologies at the end of life is emphasized.