Are Technological Developments Improving the Environmental Sustainability of Photovoltaic Electricity?

Carlos Felipe Blanco*, Stefano Cucurachi, Willie J.G.M. Peijnenburg, Alistair Beames, Martina G. Vijver

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Innovation in photovoltaics (PV) is mostly driven by the cost per kilowatt ratio, making it easy to overlook environmental impacts of technological enhancements during early research and development stages. As PV technology developers introduce novel materials and manufacturing methods, the well-studied environmental profile of conventional silicon-based PV may change considerably. Herein, existing trends and hotspots across different types of emerging PV technologies are investigated through a systematic review and meta-analysis of life-cycle assessments (LCAs). To incorporate as many data points as possible, a comprehensive harmonization procedure is applied, producing over 600 impact data points for organic, perovskite (PK), dye-sensitized, tandem, silicon, and other thin-film cells. How the panel and balance of system components affect environmental footprints in comparable installations is also investigated and discussed. Despite the large uncertainties and variabilities in the underlying LCA data and models, the harmonized results show clear positive trends across the sector. Seven potential hotspots are identified for specific PV technologies and impact categories. The analysis offers a high-level guidance for technology developers to avoid introducing undesired environmental trade-offs as they advance to make PV more competitive in the energy markets.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1901064
JournalEnergy Technology
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Jan 2020

Fingerprint

Sustainable development
Electricity
Life cycle
Silicon
Perovskite
Environmental impact
Dyes
Innovation
Thin films
Costs

Keywords

  • environmental impacts
  • life-cycle assessments
  • photovoltaics
  • solar
  • sustainability

Cite this

Blanco, C. F., Cucurachi, S., Peijnenburg, W. J. G. M., Beames, A., & Vijver, M. G. (2020). Are Technological Developments Improving the Environmental Sustainability of Photovoltaic Electricity? Energy Technology, [1901064]. https://doi.org/10.1002/ente.201901064
Blanco, Carlos Felipe ; Cucurachi, Stefano ; Peijnenburg, Willie J.G.M. ; Beames, Alistair ; Vijver, Martina G. / Are Technological Developments Improving the Environmental Sustainability of Photovoltaic Electricity?. In: Energy Technology. 2020.
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Are Technological Developments Improving the Environmental Sustainability of Photovoltaic Electricity? / Blanco, Carlos Felipe; Cucurachi, Stefano; Peijnenburg, Willie J.G.M.; Beames, Alistair; Vijver, Martina G.

In: Energy Technology, 01.2020.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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AU - Vijver, Martina G.

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