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Energy Procedia 48 (2014) 966 976

SHC 2013, International Conference on Solar Heating and Cooling for Buildings and Industry
September 23-25, 2013, Freiburg, Germany

Life cycle assessment of central solar heating plants with seasonal

Rosa Gemma Raluya, Luis M. Serraa*, Mateo Guadalfajaraa, Miguel A. Lozanoa
Aragon Institute of Engineering Research (GITSE-I3A), Universidad de Zaragoza, Mara de Luna s/n, 50018 Zaragoza, Spain


Renewable energies can play a very important role in the development of a new energy model contributing effectively towards a
more sustainable development in the mid and long term. In this context Central Solar Heating Plants with Seasonal Storage
(CSHPSS) are able to provide space heating and Domestic Hot Water (DHW) to residential buildings with high solar fractions
(>50%). These systems are already being used in Central and Northern Europe, as well as in Canada, where there is an important
experience in district heating systems. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is an objective methodology that evaluates the
environmental loads associated with a product, process, or activity, identifying and quantifying the use of mass and energy as
well as environmental emissions over its life cycle. It provides a comprehensive view of the environmental aspects of a product
or process and a more accurate picture of the true environmental trade-offs in product and process selection. In this paper is
presented a LCA of a CSHPSS, which should cover the space heating and DHW demand of 500 dwellings of 100 m2, located in
Zaragoza, Spain. Environmental burdens through the life cycle of the system are estimated based on relevant emissions to the
atmosphere, e.g. greenhouse gases, NOx, SOx, and comprehensive environmental indicators as, for instance, the IMPACT 2002+
and CED (Cumulative Energy Demand). These indicators allow to evaluate the reduction of the environmental load achieved by
the CSHPSS analyzed with respect to conventional space heating and DHW systems, as well as to identify the most critical
aspects since an environmental perspective.

Authors. Published
Published by Elsevier
by Elsevier Ltd. Ltd.
Selection andpeer
by by
thethe scientific
scientific conference
conference committee
committee of SHCof2013
under responsibility

Keywords: Life Cycle Assessment; Solar thermal energy; Seasonal storage; District heating; CSHPSS

Corresponding author. Tel.: +34 976 761913
E-mail address:

1876-6102 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and peer review by the scientific conference committee of SHC 2013 under responsibility of PSE AG
Rosa Gemma Raluy et al. / Energy Procedia 48 (2014) 966 976 967

1. Introduction

The progressive depletion of fossil fuels, the growing energy demand, the policy of reduction of pollutant
emissions, among other reasons, made urgent the search of alternative supply and technology solutions based on
renewable energies, being solar thermal energy a very interesting future option. Solar thermal energy presents a great
potential for application in the residential-commercial sector, both in small applications (individual houses) and large
installations (multi-family dwellings, residential districts, hospitals, commercial buildings, offices, etc.). The interest
and advantages of the application of the solar thermal energy to residential-commercial sector, both for heating and
air conditioning, are numerous [1]: important savings in the primary energy consumption and possible reduction of
greenhouse gas emissions; diversification of energy sources, both at the end-user level and for the energy planning
of a country; increasing the security of energy supply; greater security against variations in the prices of energy
resources; decrease in the electricity demand from the network, contributing to the stabilization of the network;
reduction of losses by transport due to the production close to the consumption place; in cooling air-conditioning
systems, the match between the demand profile and the solar resource availability, which is a key factor in the
viability of such systems; the use of solar heat for space heating and production of domestic hot water (DHW) allows
to increase the installed capacity getting a high use of the solar thermal systems during all seasons.
Regarding this latter aspect, the use of large systems which combine the solar thermal collectors with seasonal
thermal energy storage technology allows to align the largest supply of solar radiation during summer, with the
greater energy demand for space heating in winter, being feasible to reach high solar fractions (even higher than
50%) of the combined demand for space heating and DHW [2]. On the other hand, centralized solar systems can
play an important role in the future, due to the special characteristics of the solar thermal energy (free and available
at the consumption place). In order to have a complete vision of the interest and advantages of these systems, not
only their technical and economic viability should be fulfilled [2,3,4] but also it is necessary to gain a better
understanding and knowledge of the potential environmental impacts caused or avoided (environmental benefits)
throughout the whole life cycle of the facilities of this type.
To this end, the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) procedure can be utilized to analyze the entire range of
environmental damages associated with products and services. LCA is an established and internationally
standardized method for the analysis and quantification of environmental loads and impacts through the life cycle of
products and services [5]. It evaluates the consumption of natural resources and emissions of material flows taking
into account all stages in all the life cycle processes (raw material extraction, intermediate and final manufacturing
processes, packaging, transport, use and final disposal). By means of quantitative methods of impact assessment
[5,6], it is evaluated the environmental burden associated with the resource consumption and generated emissions
through the life cycle of the analyzed system. The LCA technique has been used to analyze the lifecycle of products,
processes and activities, and has been widely applied to the energy conversion processes, encompassing
environmental impacts associated to the fuel consumption as well as the construction, maintenance and final disposal
of the components of the plant. However, there are a relatively limited number of studies which focus on solar
thermal systems. Most of these studies analyze the life cycle of solar systems to cover the heating and/or hot water
demands of single residential houses (2-5 people) in different locations of European countries (Switzerland, Italy,
Greece) and North America (Canada, USA). Only few works analyze solar thermal application for several dwellings,
e.g. Simons [7]. This implies that the useful solar collection area and storage systems are small, in any case they do
not reach the category of large size solar systems (greater than 500 m2 collector area [2]). Hang [8] carried out a
comparative LCA of thermal solar systems focused exclusively on the analysis of flat plate collectors and vacuum
tubes, while Or [9] focused on the DHW storage systems (molten salt and solid medium). After a detailed
bibliographic revision, the authors of this paper are not aware of other studies that analyze the LCA of centralized
solar thermal systems with seasonal thermal energy storage (CSHPSS) to cover the thermal energy demand in
residential buildings.
In this paper is presented a LCA of a CSHPSS, covering with a high solar fraction (69%) the heating and DHW
demand of 500 dwellings of 100 m2 located in the city of Zaragoza, Spain. The main goal is the estimation of the
reduction of the environmental load achieved by the CSHPSS analyzed with respect to conventional space heating
and DHW systems, as well as to identify the most critical aspects since an environmental perspective.
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2. Description of the analyzed CSHPSS system

The CSHPSS plant analyzed (see Fig. 1) is designed to serve 500 dwellings of 100 m2 in the residential area
called Parque Goya, located in Zaragoza. The whole system reaches a high solar fraction (69%) of the space heating
and DHW demand. The system has been modeled and developed in the software TRNSYS [10,11].
The system consists of three main parts: solar field loop, space heating and DHW circuits. The heat exchangers
(ex1 and ex2) connect the solar field (primary loop) to the space heating and DHW circuits (secondary circuits),
since the primer uses a water-glycol mixture (67/33 weight) as heat transfer fluid to protect the solar field of
freezing during the winter nights. The energy harvested by the solar collectors is transferred either to the seasonal
energy storage or to the DHW storage (preferably to this one).
The seasonal storage tank is a cylindrical water tank built of reinforced concrete. It is connected to the
distribution system through a third heat exchanger (ex3) which preheats the return water from the heating network.
Due to its large size, the processes of loading and unloading of the seasonal storage tank are significantly slow,
which facilitates its function of covering part of the space heating demand during the winter season with the solar
thermal energy that has been stored during the summer period. The DHW storage is an independent tank much
smaller than the seasonal storage tank, to get in a few hours of solar heating the temperature required (60 C) for the
DHW daily service. This design approach together with the priority of loading of the DHW tank with respect to the
seasonal storage tank, allows getting high solar fractions for the DHW. The space heating system produces hot water
at 50 C for a district heating network of low temperature.
Seasonal Storage natural gas
Solar Field
Collector Piping Heating network
V1 ex1 ex3 VH
Psol V2 P1 P3 PHEAT

natural gas
DHW Storage
ex2 VDHW

Fig. 1. Diagram of the analyzed Central Solar Heating Plant combined with Seasonal Storage.

The system is completed with two auxiliary boilers, which will support and guarantee the coverage of the thermal
energy demands when the water temperature in the thermal energy storages is insufficient, several circulation pumps
and other auxiliary equipment.
In the Fig. 2 is shown the annual energy balance of the CSHPSS, including the most representative mass and
energy flows of the system. The annual thermal energy demand (GD) is 2,905 MWh/year, being 507.5 MWh/year
for domestic hot water and 2,397.5 MWh/year for space heating. To cover these demands, the total power
consumption (E) of the pumps is 59.4 MWh/year, and the total natural gas consumption in the auxiliary boilers (G)
is 953.1 MWh/year, being 861.7 MWh/year consumed (GBH) in the space heating boiler (93% of efficiency) and
91.4 MWh/year consumed (GBD) in the DHW boiler (96% of efficiency).
For the design of the main devices in the system (solar field, thermal energy storages, auxiliary boilers, heat
exchangers and pumps), it has been used information from commercial manufacturers catalogues and bibliographic
information published in the literature [9,12]. Design criteria and procedures are described in detail in the works of
Anastasia [10] and Frago [11].
Given the features of the energy services that should attend the CSHPSS system, flat plate collectors have been
chosen to collect the solar radiation. The aperture area of the solar collectors, installed on the ground, in the
analyzed case is A = 2,760 m2, which means a ratio with respect to the annual heat demand of A/GD = 0.95
Rosa Gemma Raluy et al. / Energy Procedia 48 (2014) 966 976 969

12 Ka1 = 89.9% 29
Qex1, o QP1,o Qa1,o QP3,o Ex.3
Space Heating
6375 6382 Seasonal storage 5738 5747 Demand
K sf = 45.8% Ex.1
P1 a1 P3 Solar fraction 66.6%
E Ps QP3,l QBH,o
QP1, l
Qsf ,i 167
5 21 2884 GBH
Qsf,o QPs ,o Qa1, l QBH,l 3102
645 K BH = 93 %
17071 7819 7911 217
QBD,l K BD = 96 %

Qsf, l QPs,l E P2 Ka2 =98.2%

13 GBD
6 329
9252 75 QBD,o
Solar field Solar pump Qex2,o QP2,o Qa2,o 316
1535 1539 1512 DHW Demand
a2 1828
P2 Solar fraction 82.7%
DWH storage
QP2,l Q: Thermal energy
3 G: Natural Gas
Qa2,l E: Electricity
27 Q: Heat loss

Fig. 2. Energy flows of the analyzed system (GJ/year).

The DHW tank is calculated based on the daily hot water average demand. The selected tank volume was 47 m 3
to ensure the demand for two days. The seasonal storage tank volume (V) is designed with the restriction that it
should be fully charged (the temperature of the water in its upper layer is about 100 C) just before the beginning of
the heating season. For the studied case it was estimated that the required volume was 15,180 m3 (V/A = 5.5 m3/m2).
Due to its large size, the seasonal storage should be built in situ.
The auxiliary boilers with a thermal capacity of 208 kW for the DHW production and 1,800 kW for the space
heating are designed to cover by themselves the 100% of the respective heat demands.
The heat exchanger surface has been established to guarantee an efficiency of 95% even in the most demanding
operating conditions.
Finally the sizing of the pumps has been obtained considering the current maximum flow rate and the load losses
in the different parts of the hydraulic circuit. The pump of the solar field (Psol in Fig. 1) is the biggest with a rated
power of 15 KW; and the power of the pumps P1, P2 and P3 is 1.4 KW, 1.4 KW and 3.7 KW respectively (Fig. 1).

3. Life cycle assessment

LCA enables the estimation of the cumulative environmental impacts resulting from all stages in the product life
cycle, often including impacts not considered in more traditional analyses (e.g., raw material extraction, material
transportation, product disposal, etc.). By including the impacts throughout the product life cycle, LCA provides a
comprehensive view of the environmental aspects of the product or process and a more accurate picture of the true
environmental trade-offs in product and process selection. The LCA procedure has been standardized by the
International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in the ISO 14040 series (ISO 14040; ISO 14044) [13-15].
The LCA considers a series of four interrelated phases, which follow a specific sequence: i) goal and scope
definition, ii) inventory analysis, iii) impact assessment, and iv) interpretation of results. The goal and scope
definition of the study establishes the aspects and premises that will be considered in the analysis, as well as the goal
by defining the functional unit (or reference performance feature to standardize input and output data) with respect
to it will be evaluated the LCA. The inventory analysis is an accounting of the natural resources consumed and the
emissions produced "from the cradle to the grave" associated to a) each mass and energy flows that input/output the
system, as well as b) each of the pieces of equipment of the plant. The complete system used to develop the LCA
includes the input/output flows distribution, especially fuel, and the whole life cycle of the components. Inventories
of elementary flows (e.g. consumption of natural resources, energy and emissions generated) are compiled following
the international standard approach. The physical conservation laws of mass and energy represent the basis for the
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calculation of the inventory results. The accuracy of this procedure depends on the assumptions of each modeled
process and the full system. Once the natural resources inventory consumed and emissions generated are known, it
is performed a quantitative impact assessment using different indicators. This study uses the values of the kg of
CO2-equivalent (using the IPCC 2007 method), the IMPACT 2002+ [6] and CED (Cumulative Energy Demand)
[16] methods, since they encompass a large number of environmental aspects of different nature. All these
evaluation methods are implemented in SimaPro 7.3.3 [17], which is the software used to carry out the LCA of the
system studied in this work. These methods are briefly described next.

3.1. Selected methods of impact assessment of LCA

The IPCC 2007 method [6] uses the up-to-date figures of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
for the quantification of direct contributions of airborne emissions to the problem of climate change. The method
evaluates the emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) due to anthropogenic activities. The characterization of
different gaseous emissions according to their global warming potential and the aggregation of different emissions
in the impact category climate change is one of the most widely used methods in life cycle impact assessment
(LCIA). Characterization values for GHG emissions are based on global warming potentials (GWPs) published by
the IPCC [18]. GWPs are an index for estimating relative global warming contribution due to atmospheric emission
of 1 kg of a particular GHG compared to the emission of 1 kg of CO2, i.e. direct GWPs are relative to the global
warming potential of carbon dioxide. Three time horizons are used to show the effects of atmospheric lifetimes of
the different gases: GWPs to 20, 100 and 500 years. In this work a timeframe of 100 years has been considered.
IMPACT 2002+ (IMPact Assessment of Chemical Toxics) is an impact assessment methodology originally
developed at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology - Lausanne (EPFL) [19]. The method has already been
evaluated by different authors [20] in respect to its suitability use for topics related to LCA. It is a combination of
four methods (IMPACT 2002, Eco-indicator 99, CML and IPCC), being largely based on Eco-Indicator 99 [21]. It
proposes a feasible implementation of a combined midpoint/damage approach, linking all types of LCI-life cycle
inventory results (elementary flows and other interventions) via 14 midpoint impact categories of different nature
(human toxicity, respiratory effects, ionizing radiation, ozone layer depletion, photochemical oxidation, aquatic
ecotoxicity, terrestrial ecotoxicity, terrestrial acidification/nutrification, aquatic acidification, aquatic eutrophication,
land occupation, global warming, non-renewable energy, mineral extraction) to four damage categories (human
health, ecosystem quality, climate change and natural resources). This takes advantages of both midpoint based
indicators (CML) and damage based methodologies (Eco-indicator 99). The results for each of the four damage
categories are obtained by classification, characterization and normalization of the results of the Life Cycle
Inventory (LCI). The term midpoint expresses the view that this point is located somewhere on the impact pathway
as an intermediate point between the LCI results and the damage or endpoint of the pathways. A damage indicator
result is the quantified representation of a potential damage, e.g. damage to the human health or to the ecosystems,
among others. The midpoint and/or damage factors are normalized by dividing the impact per unit of emission by
the total impact of all substances of the specific category for which characterization factors exist, per person per year
(for Europe). The unit of all normalized midpoint/damage factors is expressed in Points [19]. A Point represents the
average impact in a specific category caused by a person during one year in Europe; this average impact is the total
impact of the specific category divided by the total European population [22].
CED is a method to calculate Cumulative Energy Demand (expressed in MJ) [16], based in the method published
by Ecoinvent v.2.0 [23], available in the SimaPro 7 database. The CED represents the direct and indirect energy use
in units of MJ throughout the life cycle of a good, service or product (including the energy consumed during the
extraction, manufacturing, and disposal of the raw and auxiliary materials) [16]. The method of CED is useful to get
a general view of the energy related environmental impacts in a life cycle and for a first comparison of individual
products. But energy use does not give a full picture for all environmental impacts in the life cycle of goods and
services. Furthermore, the environmental impacts vary among different energy resources, e.g. the impacts of coal
use in relation to the energy content are normally more severe than those related to the use of natural gas. Thus,
CED analysis cannot be the one and only method for evaluating the environmental impacts of a good or service. It
has been included in this work in order to estimate the energy payback of the analyzed system.
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4. LCA of the considered CSHPSS system

4.1. Goal and scope definition

The LCA of the analyzed system (Fig. 1) has been divided into assembly and operational phases.
The assembly phase is subdivided into each of the components of the system, which are: solar collectors,
seasonal storage, DHW storage, pumps, heat exchangers and NG boilers. It has been considered for each
component: the used materials, the manufacturing processes of materials and devices, road transportation from the
production factory to the location of the system (estimated average distance of 600 km), the land occupation and the
final disposal (it is considered that they are dumped to the landfill at the end of its useful life). It is not considered
the maintenance of the installation equipment. In respect to the recycling/reuse of materials at the end of their
lifetime, the selected processes of Ecoinvent database related to material include recycling rate in their production
[23]: 18% in copper, 37% steel stainless, 35% cast iron, 37% reinforced steel, 32% aluminium, 15% Al-Cu allow.
In the operational phase it has been considered: the electrical power consumption of the pumps and the NG
consumption in the auxiliary boilers. It has been taken the Spanish peninsular electricity production system of the
year 2012 (23% nuclear origin, 44% fossil and 33% renewable) [24] for the electricity consumption. In the case of
the natural gas it has been considered the extraction, gas processing, transport, distribution and combustion of the
natural gas consumed in Spain, which is represented with the processes available in Idemat database (process,
Energy gas I) [6] and Ecoinvent database (process, Heat, natural gas, industrial furnace at >100kW) [23].
The separate study of the effect of manufacturing the main devices (assembly), and their operation allows the
identification of the system components and stages with greater environmental relevance, providing information on
possible improvements. It also shows the environmental loads associated to the solar subsystem and to the auxiliary
The limit of the analyzed system is set in the distribution network, i.e. it is out the scope of this study the district
heating network needed to transport the heat to the dwellings. The functional unit (calculation basis) for the analysis
is the thermal energy produced throughout the useful lifetime of the plant, which is 25 years except for the thermal
energy storages which have a lifetime of 50 years.
Data corresponding to the materials of the plant components, manufacturing processes and energy consumed
have been obtained from commercial manufacturers catalogues [25-29], bibliographic information [10,11,30-32],
and Ecoinvent v2.0 [23] and Idemat [6] databases. Table 1 shows the main materials of the considered devices in the
assembly phase of the analyzed solar system.

Table 1. Main materials of the considered components.

Density Solar Seasonal DHW Boilers Pumps Heat Pipe
(kg/m3) collectors storage storage exchangers
Glass 2,500 20.51 ton - - - - - -
Aluminium 2,700 13.26 ton - - - - - -
Al-Cu alloy 2,780 3.75 ton - - - - - -
Rock wool 45 13.25 ton - - - - - -
XPS1 100 - 104.95 ton 2.21 ton - - - -
Concrete 2,440 - 944.55 m3 19.55 m3 - - -
Reinforcing steel 7,800 - 818.61 ton 17.23 ton 4,747 kg - - -
Stainless steel 7,850 - 32.74 ton 689 kg - - 9,352 kg 1,391.4 kg
PVC 800 - 5.6 ton 117.8 kg - - - -
Cast iron 7,500 - - - - 317 kg - -
HDPE2 900 - - - - - - 712.51 kg
PUR3 65 - - - - - - 203.2 kg
1 2 3
XPS: polystyrene extruded; HPDE: high density polyethylene; PUR: polyurethane
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4.2. Results of LCA

Next are presented the obtained LCA results of the analyzed CSHPSS system. Table 2 shows the values of the
life cycle inventory phase: airborne emissions of GHG evaluated in terms of CO2 equivalent emissions (according to
IPCC 2007 to 100 years), NOx and SOx emissions. Besides, it is shown the final punctuation obtained with the
impact assessment method IMPACT 2002+, as well as the involved energy evaluated with the Cumulative Energy
Demand, CED, method.

Table 2. Relevant airborne emissions and values of IMPACT 2002+ (points) and CED (MJ) per unit of total thermal energy demand.
kg CO2 eq/MWh g NOx/MWh g SOx/MWh mPts IMPACT/MWh MJ CED/MJ
Solar collectors 3.38 (9.76%) 6.95 (8.51%) 14.40 (16.84%) 1.10 (10.33%) 0.015 (9.98%)
Seasonal storage 22.12 (63.89%) 49.70 (60.82%) 32.20 (37.65%) 6.22 (58.40%) 0.077 (51.74%)
DHW storage 0.46 (1.34%) 1.05 (1.28%) 0.68 (0.80%) 0.12 (1.22%) 1.6310-3 (1.09%)
Pumps 0.01 (0.03%) 0.04 (0.04%) 0.02 (0.02%) 4.710-3 (0.04%) 5.4310-5 (0.04%)
Heat exchangers 0.59 (1.71%) 1.51 (1.85%) 1.92 (2.24%) 0.35 (3.29%) 2.810-3 (1.86%)
Pipe (steel) 0.12 (0.35%) 0.29 (0.35%) 0.36 (0.42%) 0.07 (0.66%) 7.110-4 (0.47%)
Pumps electricity 7.93 (22.92%) 22.18 (27.14%) 35.96 (42.04%) 2.77 (26.01%) 0.052 (34.81%)
SOLAR SUBSYSTEM 34.62 (27.58%) 81.72 (76.14%) 85.53 (96.35%) 10.65 (27.60%) 0.15 (19.11%)
Boilers 0.17 (0.18%) 0.50 (1.95%) 0.30 (9.13%) 0.06 (0.21 %) 0.001 (0.12%)
Natural Gas 90.74 (99.81%) 25.11 (98.05%) 2.95 (90.87%) 27.88 (99.79%) 0.633 (99.88%)
AUXILIARY SUBSYSTEM 90.91 (72.42%) 25.61 (23.86%) 3.24 (3.65%) 27.94 (72.40%) 0.634 (80.87%)
TOTAL SYSTEM 125.52 107.33 88.77 38.59 0.784

Greenhouse gas emissions (expressed in kg CO2-eq per MWh of total thermal energy demand) are mainly
associated to the auxiliary subsystem (72%), due to the natural gas consumption. Note that the contribution of the
materials of the boilers is almost negligible and most of the greenhouse gas emissions are provoked by the natural
gas processing and combustion. Focusing on the solar subsystem, the seasonal storage is the component that
provokes the highest emissions of CO2-eq (64%). The electricity consumed by the pumps is the second important
aspect provoking higher emissions of CO2-eq (23%). The solar field presents a significant lower contribution in
terms of CO2-eq (10%) emissions. Thanks to the solar subsystem is significantly reduced the utilization of the gas
boilers as well as the consumption of natural gas. It is estimated that the avoided emissions with the solar subsystem
are 170 kg of CO2-eq per MWh of total thermal energy demand.
In respect to the NOx and SOx emissions, which are pollutant substances with adverse effects to the human health
and to the ecosystems, it is obtained that they are mainly provoked by the solar subsystem (76% and 96%
respectively). Analyzing the origin of these emissions in the solar subsystem, it is also the seasonal storage tank the
component provoking the highest NOx emissions (61%) and the second in terms of SOx emissions (38%). The
electricity consumed by the pumps is, after the seasonal storage tank, the second important aspect provoking higher
environmental NOx emissions (27%) and the first one in terms of SOx emissions (42%). The solar field also presents
in this aspect a lower contribution in terms of emissions of NOx (9%) and SOx (17%). In the auxiliary system the
natural gas combustion and processing provokes more than 90% of NOx and SOx emissions. Note that in the
analyzed case the solar subsystem does not reduce the NOx and SOx emissions with respect to the auxiliary
subsystem. This fact can be explained by the low sulphur content in the natural gas, with respect to the primary
energy consumed in the manufacturing of the materials and components of the solar subsystem. These results can
vary significantly with the origin of the electricity consumed by the pumps as well as with the utilization of other
fuels different than natural gas in the boilers. Although the results corresponding to each material are not presented
in this paper, the emissions provoked by the solar collectors are mainly due to the aluminium and Al-Cu alloy, and
those provoked by the seasonal storage tank are mainly due to the reinforcing steel and the polystyrene extruded.
These results are in agreement with those obtained in other LCA studies. Thus, the copper and aluminium materials
Rosa Gemma Raluy et al. / Energy Procedia 48 (2014) 966 976 973

of solar collectors present the highest environmental burden in the works of Allen [33], Battisti [34] and
Martinopoulos [35], as well as in the solar wall systems studied by Stazi [36]. In respect to the separate components,
the thermal storage water tank is the main responsible of environmental loads in the works developed by
Tsilingiridis [37] and Koroneos [38].
Analyzing the IMPACT 2002+ method results, which provide a broad picture (considers the combined effect of
14 different impact categories) of the environmental burden, also the auxiliary subsystem causes more than 72% of
the environmental impacts, being 28% the contribution of the solar subsystem. The trends of the results obtained in
this case are very similar to those corresponding to the greenhouse gas emissions already explained. In the solar
subsystem, the contribution of the seasonal storage tank is the highest (58%). The electricity consumed in the pumps
is the second factor with a contribution of 26% and the solar collectors are the third one (10%). The contribution of
the rest of the components is significantly lower.
In terms of the direct and indirect energy use throughout the life cycle (Cumulative Energy Demand, CED), the
auxiliary system presents significantly higher values due to the natural gas consumption. Nevertheless, analyzing the
values corresponding to the solar subsystem, also the seasonal storage tank is the component of the solar subsystem
that has required the highest amount of energy (around 52%) throughout its life cycle; followed by the electricity
consumed by the pumps (35%), and the solar collector (10%). As in the previous environmental indicators, the
contribution of the rest of pieces of equipment is not significant. The CED allows estimating the Energy Payback
Time (EPT) of the analyzed system, which is relevant for the assessment of systems driven by renewable energies.
The EPT is the period of time in which the system has to be in operation in order to save the amount of primary
energy that has been spent for production, operation and maintenance of the system [39]. In this work, the EPT has
been calculated dividing the CED of the solar subsystem (1569 MJ/year), (including the materials of all the
components: solar field, storages, pumps, heat exchanges and boilers) by the energy produced by the solar
subsystem (7259 GJ/year, see Fig. 2). The obtained a payback is 0.216 years (2.6 months).
Fig. 3 and Fig. 4 show the contribution of the different impact categories considered in the IMPACT 2002+
method. Fig. 3 shows the much higher environmental impact of the auxiliary subsystem (covering only the 30% of
the thermal energy demand), mainly due to its contribution to the impact categories Non-renewable energy, Global
warming and Respiratory inorganics. In Fig. 4 are shown the impact categories corresponding to the different pieces
of equipment and the electricity consumed by the pumps of the solar subsystem. It has also been analyzed the
environmental burden considering separately the space heating demand and the DHW demand.





SOLAR Subsyst. (10.64) AUX. Subsyst. (27.9)
Carcinogens Non-carcinogens Respiratory inorganics Ionizing radiation Ozone layer depletion Respiratory organics Aquatic ecotoxicity
Terrestrial ecotoxicity Terrestrial acid/nutri Land occupation Global warming Non-renewable energy Mineral extraction

Fig. 3. IMPACT 2002+ values (mPoints/MWh of total energy demand) for the analyzed CSHPSS system.
974 Rosa Gemma Raluy et al. / Energy Procedia 48 (2014) 966 976


Solar field (1.10) Seas. storage (6.22) DWH storage (0.131) Electric. (2.77) Pumps (4.67E-3) Heat ex. (0.35) Pipe (0.07)

Carcinogens Non-carcinogens Respiratory inorganics Ionizing radiation Ozone layer depletion Respiratory organics Aquatic ecotoxicity
Terrestrial ecotoxicity Terrestrial acid/nutri Land occupation Global warming Non-renewable energy Mineral extraction

Fig. 4. Solar subsystem: Points of IMPACT 2002+ per MWh total energy demand.

Table 3. Relevant airborne emissions and points of IMPACT 2002+ and CED (MJ) per energy unit of space heating demand.
Solar collectors 3.24 (2.35%) 6.67 (5.64%) 13.81 (14.75%) 1.05 (2.48%) 0.014 (1.63%)
Solar pump 0.0038 (0.003%) 1.1610-2 (0.01%) 7.110-3 (0.007%) 1.510-3 (0.004%) 1.810-5 (0.002%)
SP electricity 5.94 (4.30%) 16.61 (14.04%) 26.92 (28.74%) 2.07 (4.89%) 0.039 (4.55%)
Pipe (steel) 0.11 (0.08%) 0.28 (0.24%) 0.34 (0.36%) 0.06 (0.14%) 6.810-4 (0.08%)
Heat exchanger 1 0.20 (0.14%) 0.52 (0.44%) 0.65 (0.69%) 0.118 (0.28%) 9.510-4 (0.11)
-3 -3 -3 -3
Pump 1 2.910 (0.002%) 8.910 (0.007%) 5.410 (0.006%) 1.210 (0.003%) 1.410-5 (0.002%)
P1 electricity 0.54 (0.39%) 1.51 (1.28%) 2.44 (2.61%) 0.188 (0.44%) 0.004 (0.47%)
Seasonal storage 26.80 (19.41%) 60.23 (50.90%) 39.01 (41.64%) 7.53 (17.81%) 0.094 (10.97%)
-3 -2 -3 -3
Pump 3 3.310 (0.002%) 1.0210 (0.009%) 6.210 (0.007%) 1.410 (0.003%) 1.610-5 (0.002)
P3 electricity 1.30 (0.94%) 3.64 (3.08%) 5.91 (6.31%) 0.456 (1.08%) 0.009 (1.05%)
Heat exchanger 3 0.31 (0.22%) 0.80 (0.68 %) 1.02 (1.09%) 0.185 (0.44%) 0.001 (0.12%)
Boiler (S. Heating) 0.18 (0.13%) 0.55 (0.46%) 0.32 (0.34%) 0.067 (0.16%) 8.510-4 (0.1%)
Natural Gas (Heat.) 99.41 (72.00%) 27.51 (23.25%) 3.23 (3.45%) 30.54 (72.22%) 0.693 (80.96%)
TOTAL (S. Heating) 138.06 118.34 93.69 42.29 0.857

Table 4. Relevant airborne emissions and points of IMPACT 2002+ and CED (MJ) per energy unit of DHW demand.
DHW kg CO2 eq/MWh g NOx/MWh g SOx/MWh mPts IMPACT/MWh MJ CED/MJ
Solar collectors 4.03 (6.08%) 8.28 (14.96%) 17.16 (26.17%) 1.31 (6.22%) 0.018 (4.12%)
-3 -2 -4 -3
Solar pump 4.710 (0.007%) 1.4410 (0.026%) 8.810 (0.013%) 1.910 (0.009%) 2.210-5 (0.005%)
SP electricity 7.38 (11.13%) 20.63 (37.29%) 33.45 (51.01%) 2.58 (12.25%) 0.048 (10.98%)
Pipe (steel) 0.14 (0.21%) 0.34 (0.61%) 0.43 (0.66%) 0.077 (0.37%) 8.510-4 (0.19%)
Heat exchanger 2 0.95 (1.43%) 2.43 (4.39%) 3.08 (4.70%) 0.558 (2.65%) 0.004 (0.92%)
Pump 2 0.014 (0.02%) 0.042 (0.076%) 2.5510-2 (0.04%) 0.005 (0.02%) 6.510-5 (0.015%)
P2 electricity 1.27 (1.91%) 3.56 (6.43%) 5.77 (8.80%) 0.445 (2.11%) 0.008 (1.83%)
DHW storage 2.66 (4.01%) 5.98 (10.81%) 3.88 (5.92%) 0.75 (3.56%) 0.009 (2.06%)
Boiler (DHW) 0.09 (0.14%) 0.28 (0.51%) 0.16 (0.24%) 0.033 (0.16%) 4.310-4 (0.1%)
Natural Gas (DHW) 49.78 (75.06%) 13.78 (24.89%) 1.62 (2.47%) 15.29 (72.64%) 0.347 (79.41%)
TOTAL (DHW) 66.32 55.33 65.57 21.05 0.437
Rosa Gemma Raluy et al. / Energy Procedia 48 (2014) 966 976 975

Results in Tables 3 and 4 are presented per unit energy of the considered demand. The environmental loads of the
solar field, solar pump and pipe, which are common to both subsystems (space heating and DHW) have been
apportioned proportionally to the thermal energy produced by the solar subsystem to cover the space heating and
DHW demands. The results obtained are shown in more detail for each component and are similar to the previous
ones. Note the importance of solar pump with respect to the rest of the pumps, since its energy consumption (and
power) is significantly higher.

5. Conclusions

The Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of a centralized solar thermal system with seasonal heat storage (CSHPSS)
that covers the thermal energy demand for space heating and DHW of 500 dwellings of 100 m2 located in Zaragoza,
has been developed. It has been estimated, per unit of thermal energy demand, the greenhouse emissions (kg of
CO2- equivalent), nitrogen oxides and sulphur oxides, as well as the values of IMPACT 2002+ and CED methods,
providing a broad evaluation of the environmental burden of different nature provoked by the analyzed system.
The LCA of the CSHPSS has been performed with the software SimaPro 7.3.3 [17] considering separately the
construction (main components) and operation phases. For each component has been considered the materials used,
the manufacturing process of the materials and the components, the transportation, land occupation and final
disposal (dumping disposal in a landfill).
The results obtained show that the auxiliary system, despite it is covering the 31% of the heating demand,
provokes the highest environmental loads, due to the natural gas consumption, in terms of CO2-eq emissions (72%),
in points of IMPACT 2002+ (72%) and in MJ of CED (81%). Nevertheless, the NOx and SOx emissions provoked
by the solar subsystem are significant (76% and 96% respectively), due to the important amount of materials
required for the construction of the seasonal thermal energy storage (water tank) as well as to the electricity
consumed in the pumps. Solar collectors present a significant lower environmental load.
Therefore, it is remarked the importance of reducing the electrical energy consumption in the pumps and the
environmental burden provoked by the production of electricity. It is also noted the necessity of designing seasonal
thermal energy storage systems using techniques and materials with low environmental impact. Although in a lower
degree of importance, it is recommended in the solar collectors the usage of more environmental friendly materials.
The obtained results show the important environmental benefits of CSHPSS, although it is also shown that the
environmental burden provoked by these systems is not null and some aspects should be taken into consideration
due to the their relevant environmental loads.


The present results have been developed in the frame of the research project ENE 2010-19346, partially funded
by the Spanish Government (ENERGY research program), the Government of Aragon and the Social EU Fund
(FEDER Program).


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