Methodologies for the sustainability evaluation of innovative renewable energy technologies
Simone Maranghi a b, Maria Laura Parisi a b, Riccardo Basosi a b, Adalgisa Sinicropi a b
a R2ES Lab, Research on Renewable Energy and Sustainability, Department of Biotechnologies, Chemistry and Pharmacy, University of Siena, Siena, Italy
b CSGI, Center for Colloid and Surface Science, Sesto Fiorentino, Firenze, Italy
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
Poster, Adalgisa Sinicropi, 258
Publication date: 11th February 2019

The development of low-carbon technologies for energy generation, storage and management is a priority of the H2020 work programme for "Secure, Clean and Efficient Energy”.

To support the design and optimization of innovative technologies and to foresee their role in future energy scenarios, sustainability assessments are essential to provide a reliable appraisal of the environmental, economic and social burdens associated to a product, process or service, and reasonable market implications. Methodologies based on Life Cycle Thinking approach (i.e., Life Cycle Assessment, LCA; Life Cycle Costing, LCC; Social Life Cycle Assessment, SLCA; Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment, LCSA) are strategic tools to achieve this aim.

In particular, LCA is diffusely applied to perform environmental assessment in this field, as it allows a multi-level investigation of the system integrating resource and energy efficiency optimization, critical raw materials analysis and circular economy aspects if used to its fullest potential. The LCA analytical approach permits an outlining of the environmental profile of a product or process system during its whole life cycle, from raw materials extraction to end-of-life phase.

LCA usefulness for innovative technologies with a conventional attributional present-oriented approach has already been extensively demonstrated. In the same way, the need to proactively assess emerging technologies is widely recognized, and LCA can play a significant role in accomplishing this task. To this aim, prospective and consequential LCA are the best approaches to be implemented to study technologies at an early stage of development (small-scale production) with a future-oriented perspective of more developed phases (large-scale production).

In this work, we present the major outcomes resulting from the application of LCA to innovative photovoltaic technology manufacturing process on an industrial scale, simulating a mass production scenario. The analysis is focused on the calculation of the environmental footprint to highlight the hotspots of the production system under study. The prospective approach adopted for the analysis allows to draw different scenarios to investigate the bottlenecks and opportunities and for assessing its market potential.

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