An environmental life cycle comparison of single-crystalline and amorphous-silicon thin-film photovoltaic systems in Thailand

  • Kittner N
  • Gheewala S
  • Kamens R
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Solar Photovoltaic (PV) technologies are gaining influence as a potential supplemental electricity source in Thailand. This study assesses the environmental and economic benefits of two types of photovoltaic technologies - single-crystalline and amorphous silicon thin-film systems. The advantages of building-integrated PV are also analyzed. The assessment considers embodied energy, CO2payback, and economic investment. Solar PV currently provides less than 1% of Thailand's electricity; however the government aims to generate 25% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2021. Different policy scenarios affecting life cycle performance, including manufacturing processes and geographic differences are explored. The results indicate that solar electricity can serve as a promising, untapped renewable energy source for Thailand to pursue in its efforts to wean away from imported natural gas and other fossil fuel energy sources. Amorphous silicon thin-film panels yield a greater net environmental benefit than single-crystalline technologies. Even if panels are made in a high electricity emissions country, like China, PV reduces GHG emissions. A sustainable grid-connected photovoltaic system would combine appropriate solar photovoltaic technologies. An economic comparison is included to contextualize the findings. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) provides an invaluable tool for policymakers to evaluate such opportunities. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Electricity
  • Life cycle
  • Photovoltaic
  • Solar
  • Thailand

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