Title: Life cycle assessment of an innovative recycling process for crystalline silicon photovoltaic panels
Authors: LATUNUSSA CYNTHIAARDENTE FULVIOBLENGINI GIOVANNIMANCINI LUCIA
Citation: SOLAR ENERGY MATERIALS AND SOLAR CELLS vol. 156 p. 101-111
Publisher: ELSEVIER SCIENCE BV
Publication Year: 2016
JRC N°: JRC100613
ISSN: 0927-0248
URI: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0927024816001227
http://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/handle/JRC100613
DOI: 10.1016/j.solmat.2016.03.020
Type: Articles in periodicals and books
Abstract: Lifecycle impacts of photovoltaic (PV) plants have been largely explored in several studies. However, the end-of-life phase has been generally excluded or neglected from these analyses, mainly because of the low amount of panels that reached the disposal yet and the lack of data about their end of life. It is expected that the disposal of PV panels will become a relevant environmental issue in the next decades. This article illustrates and analyses an innovative process for the recycling of silicon PV panel. The process is based on a sequence of physical (mechanical and thermal) treatments followed by acid leaching and electrolysis. The Life Cycle Assessment methodology has been applied to account for the environmental impacts of the process. Environmental benefits (i.e. credits) due to the potential productions of secondary raw materials have been intentionally excluded, as the focus is on the recycling process. The article provides transparent and disaggregated information on the end-of-life stage of silicon PV panel, which could be useful for other LCA practitioners for future assessment of PV technologies. The study highlights that the impacts are concentrated on the incineration of the panel’s encapsulation layers, followed by the treatments to recover silicon metal, silver, copper, aluminium. For example around 20% of the global warming potential impact is due to the incineration of the sandwich layer and 30% to the post-incineration treatments. Transport is also relevant for several impact categories, ranging from a minimum of about 10% (for the freshwater eutrophication) up to 80% (for the Abiotic Depletion Potential – minerals).
JRC Directorate:Sustainable Resources

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