Life cycle assessment of most widely adopted solar photovoltaic energy technologies by mid-point and end-point indicators of ReCiPe method

Abstract

The present article focuses on a cradle-to-grave life cycle assessment (LCA) of the most widely adopted solar photovoltaic power generation technologies, viz., mono-crystalline silicon (mono-Si), multi-crystalline silicon (multi-Si), amorphous silicon (a-Si) and cadmium telluride (CdTe) energy technologies, based on ReCiPe life cycle impact assessment method. LCA is the most powerful environmental impact assessment tool from a product perspective and ReCiPe is one of the most advanced LCA methodologies with the broadest set of mid-point impact categories. More importantly, ReCiPe combines the strengths of both mid-point-based life cycle impact assessment approach of CML-IA, and end-point-based approach of Eco-indicator 99 methods. Accordingly, the LCA results of all four solar PV technologies have been evaluated and compared based on 18 mid-point impact indicators (viz., climate change, ozone depletion, terrestrial acidification, freshwater eutrophication, marine eutrophication, human toxicity, photochemical oxidant formation, particulate matter formation, terrestrial ecotoxicity, freshwater ecotoxicity, marine ecotoxicity, ionising radiation, agricultural land occupation, urban land occupation, natural land transformation, water depletion, metal depletion and fossil depletion), 3 end-point/damage indicators (viz., human health, ecosystems and cost increases in resource extraction) and a unified single score. The overall study has been conducted based on hierarchist perspective and according to the relevant ISO standards. Final results show that the CdTe thin-film solar plant carries the least environmental life cycle impact within the four PV technologies, sequentially followed by multi-Si, a-Si and mono-Si technology.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the comments of the anonymous reviewers that helped improve the article. We also thank Mirjam Jonkman for proof reading.

Funding

We like to acknowledge the research grant (grant reference no: 26181420; 2019) of Charles Darwin University for the financial support.

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Correspondence to A. Rashedi.

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Rashedi, A., Khanam, T. Life cycle assessment of most widely adopted solar photovoltaic energy technologies by mid-point and end-point indicators of ReCiPe method. Environ Sci Pollut Res 27, 29075–29090 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-020-09194-1

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Keywords

  • Mono-crystalline silicon (mono-Si) solar PV panel
  • Multi-crystalline silicon (multi-Si) solar PV panel
  • Amorphous silicon (a-Si) solar PV panel
  • Cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar PV panel
  • Life cycle assessment (LCA)
  • ReCiPe method