IEA-PVPS Task 12
PV Environmental Health And Safety

What is Life Cycle Assessment?

Life Cycle Assessment or Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) is the assessment of the environmental impact of a product considering both upstream and downstream activities. Othen the term cradle-to-grave or cradle-to-cradle is used; the first pointing at products that are disposed (in landfills) whereas the second refers to recycled products.

For some general information on LCA and an introduction to the concepts of LCI and LCIA, please visit the following website (JRC).

Please also take a look at the EC JRC's (European Commission Joint Research Centre) website on Life Cycle Thinking and Assessment.

Why Life Cycle Assessment?

Replacing fossil fuel electricity supply by clean energy sources (green products) is a way to tackle climate change. However, often the question arises how green and sustainable these clean energy sources really are.

In this context, it is important to provide a complete analysis of the environmental impact of PV products; from cradle to cradle (grave). This includes an assessment of all environmental burdens and benefits from ressource extraction, manufacturing, use of the product, recycling and material recovery (and disposal). It is also important that transportation of the product is taken into account.

Moreover, it is generally accepted that recycling can further improve the environmental performance of PV products. For more information on PV recycling, go to Subtask 1.

Also social working conditions, safety in facilities are an aspect of sustainability; which is treated in Subtask 3.

CRYSTAL CLEAR Integrated Project

CRYSTALCLEAR (CC), a project focusing on R&D related to crystalline silicon technology has been carried out within the 6th Framework Program of the European Union. It ran from January 2004 to December 2008 and could count on the collaboration of 16 partners (9 companies, 3 universities and 4 research institutes).

For more information on the deliverables of this project, please visit the project website.

ISO Standards on LCA

ISO 14040:2006 describes the principles and framework for life cycle assessment (LCA) including: definition of the goal and scope of the LCA, the life cycle inventory analysis (LCI) phase, the life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) phase, the life cycle interpretation phase, reporting and critical review of the LCA, limitations of the LCA, the relationship between the LCA phases, and conditions for use of value choices and optional elements. The standard covers life cycle assessment (LCA) studies and life cycle inventory (LCI) studies. It does not describe the LCA technique in detail, nor does it specify methodologies for the individual phases of the LCA. The intended application of LCA or LCI results is considered during definition of the goal and scope, but the application itself is outside the scope of this International Standard.

http://www.iso.org/iso/catalogue_detail.htm?csnumber=37456

ISO 14044:2006 specifies requirements and provides guidelines for life cycle assessment (LCA) including: definition of the goal and scope of the LCA, the life cycle inventory analysis (LCI) phase, the life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) phase, the life cycle interpretation phase, reporting and critical review of the LCA, limitations of the LCA, relationship between the LCA phases, and conditions for use of value choices and optional elements. It covers life cycle assessment (LCA) studies and life cycle inventory (LCI) studies.

http://www.iso.org/iso/catalogue_detail.htm?csnumber=38498