Life Cycle Assessment of New High Concentration Photovoltaic (HCPV) Modules and Multi-Junction Cells
From the three-year Horizon-2020-EU-Programme-for-Research-and-Innovation CPVMatch project stems a scientific article published in Energies, available now online. Click here for the full version of the publication issued on 29 July 2019 in the peer-reviewed open access journal. The article, co-written by two LCA experts, addresses energetic transition, points out the need for change, features potential enhancements brought by HCPV technology and prescribes further investigation routes.
Global warming, energy consumption, effects on human health due to small particle emissions, food-production-related land use competition, threat to biodiversity… Human activity has a knock-on effect on the environment. Per year, worldwide electricity consumption increases by 2.6% and greenhouse gas emissions due to electricity production raise by 2.1%. The development of efficient low-carbon-footprint renewable energy systems is urgently needed. The article goes into great detail as for the HCPV project and the HCPV technology are concerned.
CPVMatch investigates, via the Life Cycle Assessment method, the feasibility of novel High Concentration Photovoltaic systems: one mirror-based and two lens-based HCPV modules mounted with III-V four-junction cells, working at a concentration of 800× and 320×, respectively. Thanks to these innovative solar cells, plus new glass coatings, position sensitive detectors and DC/DC converters, it is possible to reach concentration levels higher than 800× and a module efficiency between 36.7% and 41.6%. From a circular economy’s standpoint, novel HCPV systems lead to decreased active material needs, increased recyclability, improved reparability and reduced material contamination risks. The ISO-compliant assessment method also demonstrates that enhanced HCPV present a carbon footprint oscillating between 16.4 and 18.4 g CO2-eq/kWh. Furthermore, a comparison with other energy means for sixteen environmental impact categories indicates that the environmental footprint of HCPV is typically 50 to 100 times lower than fossil fuels.
Extra exploration routes
Besides showcasing the environmental performance of innovative HCPV technologies, the article unveils potential optimization routes like downsizing the trackers thanks to lighter modules, producing HCPV systems in low-carbon-electricity areas, conducting circular economy-centered additional research works and investigating the pair ‘environmental performance/cost reduction.’
Renewable energy technology quickly evolves over time and HCPV cost is expected to decrease gradually. Optimized systems coupled to lower costs is likely to pave the way for many more novel prospective solutions as well as foster installations outside the present-day sunbelt area.
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