A hybrid life-cycle inventory for multi-crystalline silicon PV module manufacturing in China

Yuan Yao*, Yuan Chang, Eric Masanet

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


China is the world's largest manufacturer of multi-crystalline silicon photovoltaic (mc-Si PV) modules, which is a key enabling technology in the global transition to renewable electric power systems. This study presents a hybrid life-cycle inventory (LCI) of Chinese mc-Si PV modules, which fills a critical knowledge gap on the environmental implications of mc-Si PV module manufacturing in China. The hybrid LCI approach combines process-based LCI data for module and poly-silicon manufacturing plants with a 2007 China IO-LCI model for production of raw material and fuel inputs to estimate 'cradle to gate' primary energy use, water consumption, and major air pollutant emissions (carbon dioxide, methane, sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide, and nitrogen oxides). Results suggest that mc-Si PV modules from China may come with higher environmental burdens that one might estimate if one were using LCI results for mc-Si PV modules manufactured elsewhere. These higher burdens can be reasonably explained by the efficiency differences in China's poly-silicon manufacturing processes, the country's dependence on highly polluting coal-fired electricity, and the expanded system boundaries associated with the hybrid LCI modeling framework. The results should be useful for establishing more conservative ranges on the potential 'cradle to gate' impacts of mc-Si PV module manufacturing for more robust LCAs of PV deployment scenarios.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number114001
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014


  • China
  • Life cycle inventory
  • Multi-crystalline silicon PV
  • Solar power

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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