Domestic and overseas manufacturing scenarios of silicon-based photovoltaics: Life cycle energy and environmental comparative analysis

Dajun Yue, Fengqi You*, Seth B. Darling

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations

Abstract

While life cycle assessment (LCA) has been recognized as an invaluable tool to assess the energy and environmental profiles of a photovoltaic (PV) system, current LCA studies are limited to Europe and North America. However, today most PV modules are outsourced to and manufactured in non-OECD countries (e.g., China), which have a substantially different degree of industrialization and environmental restriction. To investigate this issue, we perform a comparative LCA between domestic and overseas manufacturing scenarios illustrated by three kinds of silicon-based PV technologies, namely mono-crystalline silicon, multi-crystalline silicon and ribbon silicon. We take into account geographic diversity by utilizing localized inventory data for processes and materials. The energy payback time, energy return on investment and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for both scenarios are calculated and analyzed. Compared to the domestic manufacturing scenario, the energy use efficiency is generally 30% lower and the carbon footprint is almost doubled in the overseas manufacturing scenario. Moreover, based on the LCA results, we propose a break-even carbon tariff model for the international trade of silicon-based PV modules, indicating an appropriate carbon tariff in the range of €105-€129/ton CO2.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)669-678
Number of pages10
JournalSolar Energy
Volume105
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2014

Keywords

  • Life cycle assessment
  • Manufacturing
  • Renewable energy
  • Silicon-based photovoltaics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Materials Science(all)

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