Effect of Recycling on the Environmental Impact of a High-Efficiency Photovoltaic Module Combining Space-Grade Solar Cells and Optical Micro-Tracking
This paper presents a life cycle assessment (LCA) analysis of a new, high-concentration photovoltaic (HCPV) technology developed as part of the HIPERION project of hybrid photovoltaics for efficiency record using an integrated optical technology. In the LCA calculations, the production stage of a full module was adopted as a functional unit. SimaPro version 9.00.49, the recent Ecoinvent database (3.8), and the IPCC 2021 GWP 100a environmental model were applied to perform the calculations. The environmental impact of the HCPV panel was determined for constructional data and for recycling of the main elements of the module. The results of the calculations show that recycling of PMMA, rubber, and electronic elements reduced the total carbon footprint by 17%, from 240 to 201 kg CO2-eq. The biggest environmental load was generated by the PV cells: 99.9 kg CO2eq., which corresponds to 49.8% (41.7% without recycling) of the total environmental load due to the large number of solar cells used in the construction. The emission of CO2 over a 25-year lifespan was determined from 17.1 to 23.4 g CO2-eq/kWh (20.4 to 27.9 without recycling), depending on the location. The energy payback time (EPBT) for the analyzed module is 0.87 and 1.19 years, depending on the location and the related insolation factors (Madrid: 470 kWh/m2, Lyon: 344 kWh/m2). The results of the calculations proved that the application of recycling and recovery methods for solar cells can improve the sustainability of the photovoltaic industry.
The data presented in this study are available on request from the corresponding author. The data are not publicly available due to required consent of all project partners.
solar energy, recycling, life cycle assessment (LCA), environmental impact, high-concentration photovoltaics (HCPVs)
Ziemińska-Stolarska, A.; Pietrzak, M.; Zbiciński, I. Effect of Recycling on the Environmental Impact of a High-Efficiency Photovoltaic Module Combining Space-Grade Solar Cells and Optical Micro-Tracking. Energies 2023, 16, 3302. https://doi.org/10.3390/en16083302