Solar Energy 80 (2006) 555–563 www.elsevier.

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Life cycle assessment study of solar PV systems: An example of a 2.7 kWp distributed solar PV system in Singapore
R. Kannan a, K.C. Leong
a b

a,*

, R. Osman a, H.K. Ho a, C.P. Tso

b

School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Nanyang Technological University, 50 Nanyang Avenue, Singapore 639798, Singapore Faculty of Engineering and Technology, Multimedia University, Jalan Ayer Keroh Lama, 75450 Melaka, Malaysia Received 30 July 2003; received in revised form 23 March 2005; accepted 5 April 2005 Available online 13 June 2005 Communicated by: Associate Editor Aaron Sanchez-Juarez

Abstract In life cycle assessment (LCA) of solar PV systems, energy pay back time (EPBT) is the commonly used indicator to justify its primary energy use. However, EPBT is a function of competing energy sources with which electricity from solar PV is compared, and amount of electricity generated from the solar PV system which varies with local irradiation and ambient conditions. Therefore, it is more appropriate to use site-specific EPBT for major decision-making in power generation planning. LCA and life cycle cost analysis are performed for a distributed 2.7 kWp grid-connected monocrystalline solar PV system operating in Singapore. This paper presents various EPBT analyses of the solar PV system with reference to a fuel oil-fired steam turbine and their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and costs are also compared. The study reveals that GHG emission from electricity generation from the solar PV system is less than one-fourth that from an oil-fired steam turbine plant and one-half that from a gas-fired combined cycle plant. However, the cost of electricity is about five to seven times higher than that from the oil or gas fired power plant. The environmental uncertainties of the solar PV system are also critically reviewed and presented. Ó 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Solar PV; Greenhouse gas emissions; Life cycle assessment; Life cycle cost analysis; Distributed generation

1. Introduction Global warming caused by greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from combustion of fossil fuels has become an important environmental issue in the global arena. Unlike in the 1970s, the motivation now has been

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +65 6790 5596; fax: +65 6792 2619. E-mail address: mkcleong@ntu.edu.sg (K.C. Leong).

changed from the perceived fossil fuel depletion to global warming concerns. As a result, non-fossil energy sources are explored, and power generation from solar photovoltaic (PV) systems plays a prominent role. Although the operation of solar PV system is free from fossil fuel use, a considerable amount of energy is consumed in the manufacturing of solar PV modules. To quantify the energy consumed in the manufacturing of solar PV modules, numerous life cycle assessment (LCA) studies have been carried out (Hagedorn, 1989; Phylipsen and Alsema, 1995; Nieuwlaar et al., 1996;

0038-092X/$ - see front matter Ó 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.solener.2005.04.008

However. power factor. 103° 59 0 E]) (Meteorological Service Singapore. which has been operating in Singapore since May 2002. 1997. non-fossil based energy sources for the power generation are limited. large-scale power generation from solar PV systems is limited because of constraints in space.7 kWp mono-crystalline solar PV system. Thus. at least to represent a region.. It has been recorded that solar PV modules reached a temperature higher than 60 °C during peak radiation hours in equatorial Singapore. rain fall. As a demonstration cum research project. 2. voltage. From a broad view. Gagnon et al. 2002. A wide variation in the EPBT is found in these studies. Due to SingaporeÕs small geographical area. 2004). 2003). the quantity of electricity generated from a solar PV system depends on its geographical location. In LCA studies. 3.. solar irradiation and ambient temperature. Thus. the power sector faces heightened competition and market demands for costeffective power generation. 75 Wp) mounted on a building rooftop with aluminium supporting structures and concrete blocks for the base (see Fig. and it is more appropriate to use EPBT from local studies for more informed decision making. 2004b).7 kWp mono-crystalline. within the building. etc. 2004). which is the time required for the solar PV module to generate the equivalent amount of energy consumed in its manufacturing processes. However. (2002) used the energy payback ratio which is the ratio between energy produced during the normal life span of the power generation system and energy required to build. only small-scale solar PV systems can be considered for distributed generation.e. quantity of electricity generated from the solar PV system and competing energy sources with which electricity from the solar PV system is compared. i.7 kWp mono-crystalline solar PV system. Thus. the countryÕs gross domestic product was about US$100 billion (Singapore Department of Statistics.9 kWp grid-connected solar PV system comprising 2. temperatures.5 kVA capacity. Although the energy consumption during manufacturing of solar PV modules does not vary significantly with geographical location. These studies expressed the energy use in terms of energy pay back time (EPBT). The country receives an annual solar radiation of 1635 kW h/m2 (at Changi Airport [1° 22 0 N. each having 12 modules. all the generated electricity is consumed within the building and hardly any electricity is exported (sold) to the grid. STC do not prevail. electricity generation from natural gas-fired combined cycle plants accounted for 61% (EMA. there is a need for site-specific life cycle evaluation to generate insights. The only known source of renewable energy is solar radiation. a life cycle cost analysis (LCCA) is also included in this study. In 2003.). The AC output from the inverters is connected to the three phases of the grid. 1). GEMIS. Description of the solar PV system The 2. Karl and Theresa.) and meteorological data (radiation. particularly under tropical high humidity weather conditions where the ambient temperature is often above 30 °C. in actual operation of a solar PV system. maintain and fuel the generation equipment. This paper describes a LCA study carried out for a gridconnected 2. Since electricity generated from the solar PV system is a small fraction of the buildingÕs power demand. was about 32 TW he (EMA.. Corkish (1997) and Karl and Theresa (2002) also provided summaries of EPBT of solar PV modules.12 kWp CIS thin-film to study their operational performances and cost-effectiveness (BCA. A data logger is installed to record electrical (power. To consider its economic implications. humidity. Control units are installed in such a way as to use the electricity from the solar PV system firstly for the local load.066 kWp poly-crystalline and 3. Gagnon et al. 2002. Three strings. Three phases of the inverterÕs DC inputs and AC out- 2. As an alternative index. Singapore power sector Singapore is one of the most industrialised and urbanised economies in South-East Asia with an area of 697 km2 and a population of 4. SingaporeÕs wholesale electricity market (National Electricity Market of Singapore—NEMS) began its operations in 2003 (EMC. are connected to three inverters of 1. the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) of Singapore installed an 8. However. 2003).g. About 97% of its power is generated from imported oil and natural gas while the rest is from waste incineration plants. 2002). its actual operating efficiency is lower than that at STC. Kannan et al.7 kWp solar PV system consists of 36 monocrystalline modules (12 V.18 million. The LCA and LCCA results are compared with that of an oil-fired steam turbine and gas fired combined cycle plant. Singapore had 8919 MW installed power generating capacity consisting of 53% steam turbine and 30% combined cycle plants (EMA. 2004a) and is projected to grow at an annual rate of 3–5% during 2003–2013 (APERC. / Solar Energy 80 (2006) 555–563 Kato et al. SingaporeÕs total electricity consumption in 2003 . In 2003. the efficiency of the solar PV module is considered to be its efficiency under the standard test conditions (STC) of 1000 W/m2 and 25 °C.556 R. e. Therefore. 2003). In the deregulated electricity market. none of the above factors can be considered in isolation. The 12 modules are connected in series to generate 204 V DC (900 Wp) at their rated voltage (under STC). This study is based on the 2. wind speed. EPBT is a function of the amount of energy used for manufacturing solar PV modules. etc.1. current. 1997).

.7 kWp solar PV system In this study. viz. GEMIS. For aluminium and concrete supporting structures. 2002. Based on the manufacturerÕs specifications. construction. Manufacturing of solar PV modules and balance of the system (BOS) such as inverters. All indicators of the study such as energy use. The variations can be attributed to technological assumptions and system boundary. The study of Karl and Theresa (2002) is specific to the solar PV module used in the solar PV system and its specific energy consumption is 16 MW ht/kWp. The aim of this LCA study is to quantify the non-renewable primary energy use and GHG emissions from electricity generation from the solar PV system. and six sensors are installed to measure the temperature of the mono-crystalline solar PV modules. The research methodology is described in detail in the authorsÕ previous paper (Kannan et al. emissions and cost are indexed based on the functional unit which is defined as 1 kW h of AC electricity. an average annual power generation of 2600 kW he is used. As can be seen from the material use. Kato et al. 2002). Solar PV modules mounted on the building rooftop. Life cycle inventory The life cycle of the solar PV system is considered in three phases.2. the conventional LCA procedure viz. 2 shows the LCA boundary. This value is adopted for this LCA study.1. hardly any material inflow is involved.R. 4. puts are measured. is used. The average net conversion efficiency of the solar PV system (solar radiation to AC power output) varied between 7. impact assessment and improvement assessment. The annual net electricity generated from the solar PV system during June 2002 to May 2003 was 2623 kW he and 2581 kW he during June 2003 to May 2004.. Mathur et al. 4. Fig. life cycle inventory. are included in the system boundary. Numerous studies have been carried out to estimate the energy consumption in the manufacturing of mono-crystalline solar PV modules (Hagedorn. 2002. goal and scope definition. Karl and Theresa. In the operation and decommissioning phases. Kannan et al. Life cycle assessment of the 2. operation and decommissioning. 3 shows the materials used for the solar PV system. supporting structures and their accessories.. It can be seen that the energy consumption for manufacturing of solar PV modules varied between 11 and 45 MW ht/kWp. 4. solar PV modules. the energy use is estimated . Fig. These are summarised in Table 1.3% and 8. / Solar Energy 80 (2006) 555–563 557 Fig. 2004). For the calculation of life cycle energy use. emissions and cost. Material inventory In the construction phase.86%. 1997. the efficiency of the solar PV module under STC is 11.9% while the measured efficiency of the inverter is about 90%. Life cycle energy use 3. inverters and aluminium and concrete supporting structures are the major components. 1. the construction phase is material intensive and therefore energy intensive. 1989.

glass. cement. The other materials were obtained locally and transported by trucks. EPBT analysis of the solar PV system Electricity generated from the solar PV system is compared with that from a 250 MW (centralised) oil- . In the operational phase. Therefore. 1997). The recovered aluminium is debited from the construction phaseÕs aluminium use. based on their specific energy consumptions (GEMIS. It is assumed that 90% of the aluminium would be recycled with 90% recovery rate. 2002). 10% of the module weight is considered as the aluminium frame (Phylipsen and Alsema.558 R. 3. respectively and assumed to be transported by ship.. The manufacturing of solar PV modules accounted for 81% of the life cycle energy use. 4. / Solar Energy 80 (2006) 555–563 Silicon production Energy Energy PV cell manufacturing GHG* Emissions Solar PV modules Natural resources Fabrication of PV modules Invertors Material (steel. there is no external source of energy supply. the energy used of recycling of aluminium is shown separately (see Fig. From the sum of the energy used in the three life cycle phases and transportation. Fig. The specific energy consumption for production of inverters is 0.17 MW he/kWp (Kato et al. Material use in the solar PV system. 4). 4 shows the distribution of life cycle energy use. energy would be used for recycling of aluminium supporting structures and module frames. it is assumed to be the same magnitude in thermal energy (MW ht) as corroborated by other studies shown in Table 1. 2. Though control systems are installed. aluminium. Fig. Kannan et al. they draw energy from the solar PV module itself. The solar PV modules and inverters were imported from the USA and Germany. (1997) are denominated as electrical energy (MW he). In the decommissioning phase.3. LCA boundary of the solar PV system. in the decommissioning phase. energy use per functional unit (kW he) is calculated as 2. Energy used in transporting of all the materials associated with the solar PV system is estimated based on specific transportation energy (MJ/t-km) from GEMIS (2002). Although the energy consumption data of Kato et al. it is assumed that the solar PV module would be landfilled after removing the aluminium frames (see Section 6).) production Construction phase Energy Supporting structures System boundary Solar radiation Operational phase Electricity Wastes disposal Decommissioning phase *All the Energy input streams have their corresponding GHG emission output streams Energy Metal recycling Fig. Thus. etc.94 MJt/kW he. 1995).

23 MW ht/ton) and the module requirement (105 ton/MWp). it is less than one-fourth of the latter system.2 years. The EPBT of the solar PV system is calculated to be 6.4. The GHG emission from electricity generation from the solar PV system is about 217 gCO2/kW he.78 MW ht/kWpd In different technology level in different time frame. (1997) Mathur et al. it is less than one-half of the latter system. Therefore. due consideration should be given when comparing EPBT with other studies. it would be about 976 g-CO2/kW he. (1994) and Phylipsen and Alsema (1995).74 years. When the T&D loss is included. no transmission and distribution (T&D) loss is incurred.87 years. the solar PV system could still generate substantial amount of electricity. If the emission from the solar PV system is compared with the combined cycle plant. CH4 and N2O emission from the oil-fired steam turbine is 937 g-CO2/ kW he (Kannan et al.5 years for 1427 kW h/m2/year solar radiation.8% of operational phase fuel consumption (Kannan et al. hidden energy of input materials and production equipment From quartz (production of MG silicon) to module fabrication Off-grade silicon (from semiconductor industry) to module fabrication Manufacturing of silicon wafers to modules fabrication From growth of the silicon crystalline ingot to module fabrication From mineral sand to module fabrication 17.R. Since primary sources of energy usage are unknown. It can be seen that the EPBT varies with type of power generation technologies with which solar PV is compared and their operational boundary.. 4. If the T&D loss. hidden1 energy use in electricity generation from oil-fired steam turbine plant is about 8. GHG emission potentially occurs from the energy used for the manufacturing of solar PV modules and the BOS. then the EPBT will be 5. fired steam turbine plant with a net efficiency of 33%. Based on this study.4 MW he/kWp 40. 1996) of coal. process energy. words. If the GHG emission from the solar PV system is compared with the oil-fired steam turbine plant. When the 4% T&D loss alone is considered. 2004). then the EPBT will be 10. d Estimated from the energy requirement for production of mono-crystalline module (131.55 MW ht/kWp 16 MW ht/kWpc 13. 2004). namely CO2.. The life cycle GHG. Since the solar PV system is used as a distributed power system. Compared to the solar PV modules lifetime (expected to be 25 years). (2002) Karl and Theresa (2002) GEMIS (2002) a b 559 Primary energy use 11–17. CH4 or N2O emissions are ignored due to uncertainties in primary sources of energy use and its relatively insignificant magnitude. then the EPBT becomes 6.19 years.70 MW he/kWpb 12. Distribution of life cycle primary energy use in solar PV system. c For Siemens SP 75 module that is adopted for this LCA study. 2004). . The life cycle emission from natural gas-fired combined cycle with a net efficiency of 50% is estimated to be 493 g-CO2/kW he including the T&D loss (Kannan et al. 4. 1 In the life cycle of solar PV system. Kannan et al. 2005).5 MW ht/kWpa Processes included in the study Exploitation and preparation of raw materials. the energy pay back time was 15. manufacturing of plant equipment and upstream processes of fuel-oil production. and energy used for development of T&D networks are accounted. If the electricity from the solar PV system is compared with a natural gas-fired combined cycle plant with a net efficiency of 50%. oil and gas as in the studies by van Margreet et al. Life cycle GHG emission Fig. the solar PV system consumes about 23% of the primary energy consumed in oil-fired steam turbine plant.. which is about 4% in Singapore (World Bank. In Singapore. If the hidden energy use is considered in the EPBT calculation. / Solar Energy 80 (2006) 555–563 Table 1 Life cycle energy use in manufacturing of mono-crystalline solar PV module Source Hagedorn (1989) Kato et al. CO2 emission is estimated based on the average emission factor (IPCC. the EPBT will be lower. In other It is the energy used in the construction of power plant.

4). there may be costs in disposing the solar PV module.and module temperatures.5% for every degree Celsius rise in cell temperature (BCA. its actual operational efficiency is between 7. the interest on the capital plays a significant 2 Cost data was obtained from the system suppliers through personal communication. The GHG emission would be about 165 g-CO2/kW he.38 MJt/kW he and the EPBT would be 4. For these three options. The life cycle cost of electricity generation from the solar PV system is 57 cents/kW he and its distribution is shown in Fig. Changing of supporting structure The aluminium supporting structure accounted for about 10% of the life cycle energy use and the recycling of aluminium also accounted for another 7% (see Fig.5. the EPBT of the solar PV system are estimated with reference to the oil-fired steam turbine with a net efficiency of 33%. . the efficiency of the solar PV module used in the solar PV system is 11. 4).. It can be seen that if all the above three scenarios were to be achieved. Due to huge capital cost of the solar PV system. 6.5 US$/Wp and its breakdown is shown in Fig. no energy costs occur in this phase. 4. The GHG emission would be about 177 g-CO2/kW he. The cost of fortnight cleaning was estimated based on a large number of installations to minimise the manpower cost. The capital cost accounted for 96% of the life cycle cost.9% including inverter and line losses of 10%. Nonetheless. the GHG emission would be about 129 g-CO2/kW he.5. an annual interest of 5% payable over the solar PV systemÕs operational life time of 25 years is used in LCCA.560 R.17% of the capital cost.9 MJt/kW he and the EPBT would be 1.5. Instead. Kannan et al.5. A lower operating efficiency could be due to high ambient. The power output of a solar PV module decreases by about 0.2. 2004). then the life cycle primary energy use would decrease to 2. it can be seen that there is a potential to reduce the life cycle primary en- ergy use. Efficiency improvement Under the STC. fortnightly cleaning of the solar PV module is carried out to reduce dust or dirt deposition on the solar PV modules.7 MJt/kW he and the EPBT would be 3. a salvage value of US$ 4603 is used which took into account the aluminium supporting structures and aluminium frames of the solar PV modules. Improvement in solar PV module production technology or mass production would lead to a reduction in energy usage. Life cycle energy use. These are (i) technology improvement in the manufacturing of solar PV modules. Technology improvement Manufacturing of the solar PV modules accounted for 81% of the life cycle energy use (see Fig. 5. However. It is assumed that the solar PV modules would not have any salvage value. 3 Based on market value of recyclable aluminum @ US$ 860 per tonne. Alternatively. If the aluminium usage for supporting structure were to be reduced to 10% of the current aluminium use. The costs of supporting structures and installations are adopted from the actual project costs (@ 1. Improvement assessment Three scenarios are studied for reducing the primary energy use of the solar PV system. If the efficiency of the solar PV system were to be increased to 10. According to the manufacturers. For the capital cost. (ii) using alternative supporting structures and (iii) achieving better solar PV module efficiency. such costs are not considered due to a dearth of information.1.8 years. Instead of the aluminium structure.3% and 8.8 years. then the life cycle primary energy use would reduce to 1. with the latter reaching above 60 °C during peak radiation hours.86%. the primary energy use would reduce to as low as 0. It worked out to be 0. From the above three scenarios. Since there is no fuel consumption in the operational phase. Cost involved in the dismantling of the solar PV system is estimated to be about US$ 7502. Although the solar PV system does not require regular maintenance. operation and maintenance (O&M) and decommissioning costs (see Kannan et al. 2004 for LCCA formula). the life cycle energy use would reduce to 2.63 S$ = 1 US$) (BCA. 5.5 years. the current market prices of 5 US$/Wp for solar PV modules and 0.5 years. In such a case. The total capital cost of the solar PV system works out to be about 7. 4. solar PV modules can be integrated into the building thereby minimising energy use and cost of supporting structure.3.83 US$/Wp for inverters are used (Solarbuzz. 2004).6% by natural cooling of modules or other means.2 MJt/kW he and the EPBT would be 4. 2005). EPBT and GHG emission from the solar PV system under the various combinations of the above scenarios are presented in Table 2. / Solar Energy 80 (2006) 555–563 4. which took into account an annual escalation rate of 1%. The net cost incurred in the decommissioning phase which took into account a discount rate of 1%. For the cost of the solar PV system. Life cycle cost analysis Costs involved in the three life cycle phases of the solar PV system are categorised as capital. If the primary energy use in the manufacturing of solar PV module were to be reduced by 50%. a concrete structure could be used and energy use could be further reduced. energy usage could be reduced by 50% if the production is doubled. However. 4.

In Singapore.4 cents/kW h (Singapore Power.48 4.38 2. Although the solar PV module and inverter costs would decline in the future. the cost of electricity would be 16.68 US$/Wp.66 2. i.e.R. Since. 2004). In such a case.20 1.03 cents/kW he based on current market price of fuel-oil price of 200 US$ per tonne (Kannan et al. oil prices surged to a new high of US$55 per barrel (The Straits Times..1. Capital cost distribution of solar PV system. Energy use for manufacturing of solar PV module reduced by 50% B. 2004) while the fuel oil price was about US$ 218 per tonne (10X Group.5 times that of the oil-fired power plant. / Solar Energy 80 (2006) 555–563 Table 2 Improvement assessment of the solar PV system Scenarios Base case A.34 ¢ per kW he if the T&D cost is included. Efficiency of the solar PV system increase to 10.81 4. 2004). Kannan et al. the cost of electricity generation from the solar PV system is about eight times higher than that from the oil-fired steam plant. the solar PV system is used as a distributed power generation system. In the legend of Fig. 10X Group. Fig.21 1. 5.72 2.81 1. To consider any such price shocks. the cost of supporting structure or installation cost or O&M cost would not change significantly.42 3. The prices of solar PV system have been historically declining at about 4% per annum and this decline is expected to continue (Solarbuzz. The cost of electricity from the solar PV system will then be about seven times higher than the gas-fired combined cycle plant. about 1.31 0.e. 4 Fig. The results are presented in Fig. In late 2004. Life cycle cost distribution of electricity generation from solar PV system.87 3.. 2005).94 ¢ per kW he at a gas price4 of US$ 5.84 CO2 emission (g/kW he) 217 129 177 165 89 135 98 68 Reference to oil-fired steam turbine with a net efficiency of 33%. 2005).34 per MMBTU (Kannan et al.91 EPBTa (years) 5.6% A+B B+C A+C A+B+C a 561 Energy (MJt/kW he) 2. PV module and inverter are shown in US$/Wp while ÔBOSÕ is the cost of supporting structures and installation cost i. It can be seen that the cost of electricity is about 33 cents/kW he at zero interest rate. costs of the solar . 7. the low tension (LT) flat rate transmission cost is about 3. natural gas price is about $ 5. aluminum use reduced to 10% C. A scenario is studied for a range of interest rates as shown in Fig. 6. the cost scenario is studied by changing the cost of solar PV modules and inverters while the rest of the costs remain unchanged. 7.5 cents/kW he from the oil-fired steam turbine For a fuel-oil price of 200 US$ per tonne. 5. a scenario is studied by assuming that fuel-oil prices would be double that of its current market price while the price of solar PV modules and inverter would reduce to half of their current price. 2005). Hidden energy use and T&D loss are also accounted.91 1.47 2. Use of concrete supporting structure. 2005).65 1. role in deciding the cost of electricity. If it is considered as the T&D cost. then the cost of electricity generation from the solar PV system is about 5. Solar PV versus conventional power generation Life cycle cost of electricity generation from the oilfired steam turbine plant is about 7. It would be 8. Thus. there is no T&D loss or costs involved in the establishment of the T&D network. A scenario is studied to estimate the life cycle cost of electricity generation from the solar PV system at various solar PV system costs. 2004. Therefore. The life cycle cost of electricity from the natural gasfired combined cycle plant is about 4.34 per MMBTU as the natural gas price in Singapore is pegged to fuel-oil price (The Business Times. 7.

and 36. However. cost should not be the sole criterion in decision making because climate change may become a more serious risk. Therefore. Nonetheless. Ag. the solar PV system is a good choice to address current energy-environmental issues. Pb and Cd) (Fthenakis. Therefore.5 US$/Wp + BOS 30 3 US$/Wp + BOS 2 US$/Wp + BOS 15 0% 1% 2% 3% 4% 5% Interest on capital cost 6% 7% Fig. 2000.g. waste generation will lag behind the installations of solar PV modules. efforts should be taken to explore all possible means to harness available solar radiation. studies have shown that large-scale exploitation of solar PV could lead to other types of undesirable environmental impacts in terms of material availability and waste disposal (Phylipsen and Alsema. the solar PV system is a good choice for power generation. Oil price and political uncertainties may be even more critical for oil importing countries. 7). Environmental uncertainties of solar PV system From the life cycle energy use and GHG emission perspectives. 1995). Due to encapsulations. particularly at the current market price.68 US$/Wp) 6.5 US$/Wp + BOS 5 US$/Wp + BOS 60 45 4. Conclusions LCA and LCCA are performed for a solar PV system in Singapore. This would require an installed capacity of about 1000 MWp and costs several billions . The presence of small amounts of regulated materials (e. we have seen that environmental problems could come in any form such as global warming from CO2. their production would require about 30% of the current silver production (Phylipsen and Alsema. A reliable externality cost is unfortunately not yet established. 1996. no proven technology has been developed for large-scale disposal of solar PV modules. Nieuwlaar et al. It can be seen that the cost of electricity from the solar PV system would now be about two times higher than that from the oil-fired steam plant. People in the solar PV industry are claiming that there should not be any environmental problem in disposing the solar PV panels because no hazardous material is expected to be released by the panels. Although there are constraints in space for installation of solar PV systems in Singapore. 7. If environmental externalities were to be accounted. As can be seen from this study. Since the anticipated lifetime of the solar PV is about 25 years. To meet 5% of the world electricity production from solar PV modules. 6. The study of Phylipsen and Alsema (1995) revealed that weather-resistant encapsulation of the modules is a major bottleneck for reuse or recycling of the silicon wafers. a 1 MW solar PV plant could generate as much as 90 tonnes of used solar PV modules. 1995.15 cents/kW he from the solar PV system at solar PV module and inverter price of 3 US$/Wp (see Fig. At the end of the life cycle. the negative effects of solar PV technology must be studied to ensure its environmental sustainability. the cost of electricity generation from solar PV systems is not comparable with fossil fuel-based technologies. Silver requirement for manufacturing solar PV modules could contribute to the depletion of silver resources. However. So far.83 US$/Wp (Current market price) + BOS (1. a non-hazardous gas. The studies of Fthenakis (2000.. Life cycle cost of electricity from solar PV system. then solar PV systems would compete favourably with fossil fuel based power generation. the glass waste from modules may contain too much plastics (EVA foil) to be accepted by glass recyclers. the solar PV system generates a substantial amount of waste (used module). built-up areas can be used effectively and annually about 1000 GWhe could be easily tapped. plant at fuel-oil price of 400 US$/tonne. However. From the perspectives of fossil energy use and GHG emission. but not without careful forethought. 7. which may have to be landfilled.562 Life cycle cost of electricity (¢/kWh) R. Kannan et al. As we increase the rate of installation of solar PV modules. large-scale disposal of solar PV module may be another problem in the future. Fthenakis. including the T&D cost. 2000) in solar PV pan- els may also cause undesirable environmental impacts when they are landfilled. 2004). 2004) concluded that recycling is technologically and economically feasible. / Solar Energy 80 (2006) 555–563 75 5.

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