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Life cycle assessment of high-concentration photovoltaic systems

Authors

  • Vasilis M. Fthenakis,

    Corresponding author
    1. Center for Life Cycle Analysis, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA
    • PV Environmental Research Center, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, NY, USA
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  • Hyung Chul Kim

    1. PV Environmental Research Center, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Upton, NY, USA
    2. Center for Life Cycle Analysis, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA
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Correspondence: Vasilis M. Fthenakis, PV Environmental Research Center, Brookhaven National Lab, Upton, NY 11973.

E-mail: vmf@bnl.gov

ABSTRACT

The environmental profiles of photovoltaic (PV) systems are becoming better as materials are used more efficiently in their production, and overall system performance improves. Our analysis details the material and energy inventories in the life cycle of high-concentration PV systems, and, based on measured field-performances, evaluates their energy payback times, life cycle greenhouse gas emissions, and usage of land and water. Although operating high-concentration PV systems require considerable maintenance, their life cycle environmental burden is much lower than that of the flat-plate c-Si systems operating in the same high-insolation regions. The estimated energy payback times of the Amonix 7700 PV system in operation at Phoenix, AZ, is only 0.9 year, and its estimated greenhouse gas emissions are 27 g CO2-eq./kWh over 30 years, or approximately 16 g CO2-eq./kWh over 50 years. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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