The Carbon Footprint of Solar Cells: How the Ultimate Lower Limit Can Be Reached with Perovskites
Lukas Wagner a, Simone Mastroianni a, Andreas Hinsch a
a Fraunhofer-Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, Heidenhofstrasse 2, D–79110 Freiburg, Germany
Proceedings of International Conference on Hybrid and Organic Photovoltaics (HOPV19)
Roma, Italy, 2019 May 12th - 15th
Organizers: Prashant Kamat, Filippo De Angelis and Aldo Di Carlo
Oral, Lukas Wagner, presentation 163
Publication date: 11th February 2019

Photovoltaics (PV) is on a transition to become a key technology in the global energy sector. Still, globally PV generates less than 2% of the electricity but is on a trajectory to reach 40% by mid-century to accomplish the Paris climate goals. It is now the time to draw attention to the impact that a global PV industry will have on the climate in the future. In this regard we present carbon emission estimates of the future PV industry. We show that, to fulfil the Paris climate goals, the global PV industry needs to grow in such a way that in any case it will have a significant share in global carbon emissions, which need to be minimized. This viewpoint represents a future oriented way of thinking about developments on photovoltaics and other global energy technologies which is not solely based on economic growth. Thereby, the integrative rationale lies in the top-down conceptualization and development of novel PV technologies from the perspective of the final product.

The lowest theoretical boundary for the carbon footprint of for grid-connected PV is represented by the concept of photovoltaic glass. We demonstrate that this limit can be closely approached by the in-situ concept for glass-frit encapsulated perovskite solar modules. Thereby, the carbon footprint can be reduced by a factor of 20 compared to silicon PV. In this regard, we span the perspective from certified record laboratory efficiency results to the implementation of the module production into the existing glass industry infrastructure.

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