Emissions from Photovoltaic Life Cycles

PV Environmental Research Center, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, New York, USA.
Environmental Science and Technology (Impact Factor: 5.33). 04/2008; 42(6):2168-74. DOI: 10.1021/es071763q
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Photovoltaic (PV) technologies have shown remarkable progress recently in terms of annual production capacity and life cycle environmental performances, which necessitate timely updates of environmental indicators. Based on PV production data of 2004-2006, this study presents the life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions, criteria pollutant emissions, and heavy metal emissions from four types of major commercial PV systems: multicrystalline silicon, monocrystalline silicon, ribbon silicon, and thin-film cadmium telluride. Life-cycle emissions were determined by employing average electricity mixtures in Europe and the United States during the materials and module production for each PV system. Among the current vintage of PV technologies, thin-film cadmium telluride (CdTe) PV emits the least amount of harmful air emissions as it requires the least amount of energy during the module production. However, the differences in the emissions between different PV technologies are very small in comparison to the emissions from conventional energy technologies that PV could displace. As a part of prospective analysis, the effect of PV breeder was investigated. Overall, all PV technologies generate far less life-cycle air emissions per GWh than conventional fossil-fuel-based electricity generation technologies. At least 89% of air emissions associated with electricity generation could be prevented if electricity from photovoltaics displaces electricity from the grid.

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Available from: E.A. Alsema, Feb 05, 2015
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    • "With the growing recognition of the need for sustainable energy production, solar energy is well-poised to gain market share. Roof-mounted thin-film photovoltaics (PV) scores among the most sustainable in terms of key sustainability indexes such as land [1] and water [2] use, as well as harmful emissions [3] [4] [5]. Electrodeposited PV materials offer even greater sustainability, as well as reduced production cost, through high material utilization efficiency, and operation at low temperatures and atmospheric pressures. "
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    ABSTRACT: Electrodeposition can enable stoichiometric control of deposited samples through variation of electroplating potential. We demonstrate an in-situ technique for deposit analysis and stoichiometric control by interspersing periods of open-circuit during deposition. Opening the circuit in an organic Cu-In-S plating bath allows greater incorporation of Cu, In, and/or S into deposited films, based upon the open-circuit voltage the film/electrolyte interface is allowed to achieve. With the same deposition potential, samples can be made to vary from highly Cu-rich to highly In-rich through selection of an appropriate open-circuit voltage limit.
    Proceedings of the 40th IEEE Photovoltaic Specialist Conference (PVSC), Denver, CO; 06/2014
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    • "According to the research, solar PV systems based on silicon have higher environmental impacts than thin film solar PV systems . In particular, CdTe PV systems have been shown to have low life cycle impacts (Fthenakis et al., 2008; Wild-Scholten et al., 2011; Peng et al., 2013) as well as low production costs compared with other PV technologies ; CdTe PV may therefore be a sustainable solution to the future Cd oversupply problem that has been projected in East Asia (Matsuno et al., 2012; Cha et al., 2013). "
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    ABSTRACT: In this study, the environmental loads of 100 kWp cadmium telluride photovoltaic (CdTe PV) power generation systems in Malaysia are analyzed using life cycle assessment. The target renewable energy system is made up of CdTe PV panel, a power conditioning system and a balance of system. Life-cycle environmental issues were analyzed using major indicators like global warming potential, fossil fuel consumption, energy payback time, and CO2 payback time. Then, the results were compared with those of alternative PV systems such as single- and multi-crystalline silicon photovoltaics. The CdTe PV systems presently have a GWP of 15.1 g CO2 equivalent/kW h in Malaysia. The CdTe PV panel is the greatest contributor to global warming potential in the system, accounting for 47.8%. Electricity used in the semiconductor deposition process is the major contributor of GWP in CdTe PV panel. Total fossil fuel consumption is 0.221 MJ/kW h. The CdTe PV panel accounts for 49.3% of the total fossil fuel consumption. Energy payback time and CO2 payback time are 0.94 years and 0.76 years, respectively, and those are relatively short periods compared with other PV power plants. The energy return on investment of the CdTe PV system was found to be superior to other Si-based PV systems.
    Solar Energy 05/2014; 103:78–88. DOI:10.1016/j.solener.2014.02.008 · 3.47 Impact Factor
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    • "The case of LCA in photovoltaic (PV) solar cell production has basis in the fact that a new etching process for PV solar cells has been developed [20]. It is an alternative to the current wet chemical etching process, which has large environmental impacts in the form of high water consumption and emission of greenhouse gases with high GWP [21], [22], [23], [24], [25], [26]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a methodology for assessing the environmental aspects and potential impacts throughout a product´s life cycle from raw materials and energy extraction, components manufacture, assembly, distribution and sale, use and final end-of-life treatment such as disposal, recycling and energy recovery (i.e. cradle-to-grave). The environmental and resource impacts include climate change, stratospheric ozone depletion, toxicological stress on human health and ecosystems, the depletion of resources, water use and many others. This paper presents and discusses cases where LCA is used for assessing the environmental impact of electronics products and processes. Included are consumer electronics products, interconnect technology in electronics micro-integration, photovoltaic (PV) solar cells, and electric vehicles.
    SusTec 2014, Portland, OR; 01/2014
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