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Environmental impacts of large-scale grid-connected ground-mounted PV installations

Renewable Energy
DOI: 10.1016/j.renene.2012.04.051
  • Environmental Impacts
  • Lca
  • Pv Installations
  • Biology
  • Design
  • Ecology
  • Geography


Abstract 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 fixed-mounting 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 g CO2 eq/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.

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