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Life cycle sustainability assessment of grid-connected photovoltaic power generation: A case study of Northeast England

Lookup NU author(s): Tianqi Li, Professor Tony Roskilly, Dr Yaodong WangORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


This paper proposes a comprehensive sustainability assessment model incorporating (a) life cycle approach and sustainability theory. In the model, sustainability is assessed from three categories: techno-economic, environmental and social. A total of thirteen indicators were included in the proposed model, with five evaluating the techno-economic performance, sixevaluating the environmental performance, and two examining the social impact. The effectiveness of this model is then demonstrated through its application to a case study of solarphotovoltaic in the North East region of England. Three types of the most commonly deployed solar photovoltaic electricity generation systems are included in the case study: monocrystalline (s-Si), polycrystalline (p-Si) and Cadmium telluride (CdTe) thin film. The multi-silicon solar photovoltaic system is found to be the most sustainable option for its high performance in the techno-economic and environmental categories; the CdTe based system is the least-favored option across all three categories; and the polycrystalline system has the best performance across all categories. Energy conversion efficiency appears to be one of the most influential factors for the solar photovoltaic system’s sustainability performance. Despite being the least costly system among the three, the CdTe system appears to be the least financially viable option mainly due to its low energy-conversion efficiency.This study estimates the environmental impact of selected technologies using the CML2001 method and then employs ReCiPe method to cross-validate the estimated results. Identical results were found for all indicators apart from eutrophication potential, due to the difference in impact quantification methods between CML and ReCiPe.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Li TQ, Roskilly AP, Wang YD

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Applied Energy

Year: 2018

Volume: 227

Pages: 465-479

Print publication date: 01/10/2018

Online publication date: 31/08/2017

Acceptance date: 14/07/2017

Date deposited: 15/08/2017

ISSN (print): 0306-2619

ISSN (electronic): 1872-9118

Publisher: Pergamon Press


DOI: 10.1016/j.apenergy.2017.07.021


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