This work (other than the webtool) has been published in
Degrees of sustainability
Solar power is a sustainable energy source, but there are
also distinctions in
how sustainable different
types of panels are. This is often expressed in the "sustainability performance" of a product. The
sustainability performance is usually calculated by comparing the total carbon footprint of the
and disposal of the PV system against the kWh produced within a certain time frame. In this section
we show that the usage scenario can also be a determining factor for the sustainability performance.
In the Netherlands, we have to use the space we have efficiently, which is why the yield
solar panels is of great importance. Solar panels become less efficient as they age, and
meanwhile, new more efficient panels are also being developed. Therefore, early replacement of
solar panels (earlier than the current average expected 30-year lifespan) may be interesting. An
earlier study showed that replacement can be financially attractive, but that early replacement
at the expense of the CO2 footprint per kWh of energy generated.
Using a number of scenarios, we illustrate that lifetime is one of the most important
sustainability aspects when looking at carbon footprint per kWh. A number of variables affect
the final impact, namely: the operational lifetime, the irradiation, the energy efficiency of the
the environmental pressure from production and discarding.
When we want to calculate whether early replacement pays off, we also need to calculate the future improvement of efficiency. In addition, production and disposal will become less environmentally damaging: on the one hand by more efficient production techniques or through higher circularity (e.g. modular parts, use or extraction of secondary raw materials). To measure when early replacement pays off, you can use this tool you can calculate scenarios with a. In the you will find a more detailed explanation.