Researchers associated with the European Commission have developed a new method for calculating the carbon footprint of photovoltaic modules for use in connection with the European Union’s ecological design regulations.
The method is divided into nine main steps. These include Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) hotspot analysis, which is dedicated to identifying areas with the most significant environmental impacts. This application of the method to PV modules defines the carbon footprint as the most significant area, but the use of water and natural resources could be considered instead.
The next steps include adapting the Product Environmental Footprint Category Rules (PEFCR) to the ecological design requirements of solar modules. The new “harmonized calculation rules” are set to calculate the carbon impact of photovoltaic modules from production to market entry, with a particular focus on the manufacturing and delivery stages.
The method performs a sensitivity analysis on the silicon content of the PV modules, the output of the modules and the grid mix used in the manufacturing phase before calculating the final results. The final steps are interpreting the results, consulting stakeholders and finally setting carbon footprint requirements for potential solar modules.
Based on their analysis, the researchers propose the following alternative regulation for the carbon footprint of PV modules: the introduction of general or parameter-specific quantitative requirements to establish the maximum permissible threshold for the carbon footprint of PV modules; requiring information on the carbon footprint of PV modules; and stating this information in the product’s energy label or product description.
“Imposing eco-design requirements on the carbon footprint of photovoltaic modules can lead to significant energy savings, especially during the energy-intensive manufacturing phase of these products,” the authors concluded.
They noted that their proposals do not necessarily reflect the official position of the European Commission.