IEA-PVPS Task 12
PV Environmental Health And Safety

Ongoing research in LCA models for all kind of PV technologies

Task 12 participants from Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN), Stuttgart University, ESU-services Ltd., CEP, MINES Paris Tech, and Elkem Solar are engaged in ongoing projects on LCA for all kind of PV module technologies (see for example figure 1).

In this context, research on the Elkem Solar metallurgical process route to solar grade silicon (Elkem Solar Silicon - ESSTM) has been conducted and a complete LCA model has been used for this.  The results of this research were disseminated at the "SCSI IX - Silicon for chemical and solar industry". Afterwards, the models have been upgraded with sensitivity analysis on the re-use of waste heat internally and externally in the production process. These results were presented at the 23rd  PVSEC - European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition in Valencia, September 2008. 

During the 25th PVSEC - European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition in Valencia, September 2010; an update on the environmental profile of CIS production was presented. The analysis focuses on energy consumption, global warming potential and energy pay-back time for current production facilities (of typically 30 MWp capacity) as well as on cell printing technology for CIS production (for which different scenarios have been developed).

More information and links to papers concerning this topic can be found in the "Publications and Reports" section.

Methodology Guidelines on Life Cycle Assessment of Photovoltaic Electricity

The “Methodology Guidelines on Life Cycle Assessment of Photovoltaic Electricity” have been completed by Task 12 members and were published in September 2009.

This document presents the first agreement at international level on how to perform Life Cycle Analysis. It provides recommendations regarding technical characteristics related to photovoltaic systems, aspects regarding modelling approaches in Life Cycle Inventory, Life Cycle Analysis and Life Cycle Impact Assessment; furthermore, it provides procedures regarding reporting and communication.

Ecoinvent database

The Ecoinvent database is continuously being updated. Data is collected by Utrecht University, ECN, BNL, ESU-services Ltd. and other sources and are provided to this project. The latest version (V2.1) was published in May 2009 and is available at It incorporates updated information on CdTe and BOS materials for mounting structures. Since recently, new and updated data is available on:

- mounting systems for ground-mounted installations

- large installations in Spain, Germany, Switzerland and the USA

- efficiency and electricity consumption for CdTe

- chemicals used in PV: PVB foil, ETFE, NF3 and silane

- national PV mixes for 26 countries

A new release of the database (v3.0) is scheduled for late 2011. New datasets will be included, a new modeling approach and data format will be available. The 2010 data should then be implemented in this version. Priorities here are data on the recycling of PV cells as well as on a-Si and other thin film technologies.

Water use in PV facilities

Task 12 experts are currently investigating the amount of water used in PV facilities. It has to be emphasized that it concerns water disposal rather than water consumption. It is estimated that 85% of the total water used is disposed upstream, whereas the assembly activities for PV production only use 15% of the total amount of water.

Apart from this, also water used during the operational lifetime of PV plants is being investigated. However, recent data reveils that the amount of water for rinsing the PV panels is considerably low.

Papers and publications

Moreover, many more papers related to Life Cycle Assessment and other environmental aspects can be found in the "Publications and Reports" section of this website. More papers are available on the respective websites of: