Environmental Impacts of Large-Scale Grid-Connected Ground-Mounted PV Installations

Antoine Beylot
CYCLECO, Ambårieu-en-Bugey, France

Jérome Payet
CYCLECO, Ambårieu-en-Bugey, France

Clément Puech
Transånergie, Ecully, France

Nadine Adra
Transånergie, Ecully, France

Philippe Jacquin
PHK consultants, Ecully, France

Isabelle Blanc
MINES ParisTech Sophia Antipolis, France

Didier Beloin-Saint-Pierre
MINES ParisTech Sophia Antipolis, France

Ladda ner artikelhttp://dx.doi.org/10.3384/ecp110572743

Ingår i: World Renewable Energy Congress - Sweden; 8-13 May; 2011; Linköping; Sweden

Linköping Electronic Conference Proceedings 57:7, s. 2743-2750

Visa mer +

Publicerad: 2011-11-03

ISBN: 978-91-7393-070-3

ISSN: 1650-3686 (tryckt), 1650-3740 (online)


This study characterizes the environmental performances of large-scale ground-mounted PV installations by considering a life-cycle approach. The methodology is based on the application of the existing international standards of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). Four scenarios are compared; considering fixedmounting structures with (1) primary aluminum supports or (2) wood supports; and mobile structures with (3) single-axis trackers or (4) dual-axis trackers. Life cycle inventories are based on manufacturers’ data combined with additional calculations and assumptions. Fixed-mounting installations with primary aluminum supports show the largest environmental impact potential with respect to human health; climate change and energy consumption. The climate change impact potential ranges between 37.5 and 53.5 gCO2eq/kWh depending on the scenario; assuming 1700 kWh/m².yr of irradiation on an inclined plane (30°); and multi-crystalline silicon modules with 14% of energy production performance. Mobile PV installations with dual-axis trackers show the largest impact potential on ecosystem quality; with more than a factor 2 of difference with other considered installations. Supports mass and composition; power density (in MWp/acre of land) and energy production performances appear as key design parameters with respect to large-scale ground mounted PV installations environmental performances; in addition to modules manufacturing process energy inputs.


Environmental impacts; LCA; PV installations


[1] IEA. Trends in photovoltaic applications: Survey report of selected IEA countries between 1992 and 2006; Report IEA-PVPS T1-16:2007

[2] Syndicat des énergies renouvelables (SER); SOLER. Etat des lieux du parc photovoltaïque français au 30 juin 2010. 2010.

[3] European Commission; Directorate-General for Research. External Costs. Research results on socio-environmental damages due to electricity and transport. Office for Official Publications of the European Communities; Luxembourg. 2003.

[4] Australian Coal Industry Association; ACARP. Coal in a sustainable society. 2004.

[5] V.M. Fthenakis; E.A. Alsema; M.J. de Wild-Scholten. Life Cycle Assessment of Photovoltaics: perceptions; needs and challenges. 31st IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists Conference. 2005.

[6] N. Jungbluth; M. Tuchschmid; R. Dones. Photovoltaics: ecoinvent report N° 6-XII. Swiss Center for Life Cycle Inventories; Dübendorf; CH. 2007.

[7] E.A. Alsema; M.J. de Wild-Scholten; V.M. Fthenakis. Environmental impacts of PV electricity generation - A critical comparison of energy supply options. 2006.

[8] IEA. Analysis of PV system’s values beyond energy – by country and stakeholder. Report IEA-PVPS 10-02:2008

[9] S. Pacca; D. Sivaraman; G. A. Keolian. Parameters affecting the life cycle performance of PV technologies and systems; Energy Policy; 2007; vol. 35; no6; pp. 3316-3326

[10] R. Kannan; K.C. Leong; R. Osman; H.K. Ho; C.P. Tso. Life cycle assessment study of solar PV systems: An example of a 2.7 kW(p) distributed solar PV system in Singapore; Solar Energy; 2006; vol. 80; no5; pp. 555-563

[11] I. Blanc; D. Beloin-Saint-Pierre; J. Payet; P. Jacquin; N. Adra; D. Mayer. Espace-PV: key sensitive parameters for environmental impacts of grid-connected PV systems with LCA. 23rd European Photovoltaic Energy Conference. 2008.

[12] D. Beloin-Saint-Pierre; I. Blanc; J. Payet; P. Jacquin; N. Adra; D. Mayer. Environmental impact of PV systems: effects of energy sources used in production of solar panels. 24th European Photovoltaic Energy Conference. 2009.

[13] K. Komoto; H. Uchida; M. Ito; K. Kurokawa; A.Inaba. Estimation of Energy Payback Time and CO2 Emission of Various Kinds of PV Systems; 23rd European Photovoltaic Energy Conference. 2008.

[14] J.M. Mason; V.M. Fthenakis; T. Hansen and H.C. Kim. Energy Pay-Back and Life Cycle CO2 Emissions of the BOS in an Optimized 3.5 MW PV Installation. 2006.

[15] International Standard Organization. ISO 14040. Environmental management – Life Cycle Assessment – principles and framework. 2006.

[16] International Standard Organization. ISO 14044. Environmental management – Life Cycle Assessment – requirements and guidelines. 2006.

[17] Institute for Environment and Sustainability. Joint Research Centre. European Commission. International Reference Life Cycle Data System handbook. 2010

[18] O. Jolliet; M. Margni; R. Charles; S. Humbert; J. Payet; G. Rebitzer; R. Rosenbaum. Impact 2002+: A new life cycle impact assessment methodology; International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment. 2003. Volume: 8; Issue: 6; Pages: 324-330.

[19] Swiss Center for Life Cycle Inventories. The life cycle inventory data version 2.0. http://www.ecoinvent.ch. 2008.

[20] A. Müller; K. Wambach; E. Alsema. Life Cycle Analysis of solar module recycling process. 20th European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference. 2005.

Citeringar i Crossref