Life Cycle Inventories and Life Cycle Assessments of Photovoltaic Systems: IEA PVPS Task 12: PV Sustainability

Rolf Frischknecht, Rene Itten, Parikhit Sinha, Mariska Wild-Scholten, Jia Zhang, Garvin Heath (NREL Technical Monitor)

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a structured, comprehensive method of quantifying material- and energyflows and their associated impacts in the life cycles of products (i.e., goods and services). One of the major goals of IEA PVPS Task 12 is to provide guidance on assuring consistency, balance, transparency and quality of LCA to enhance the credibility and reliability of the results. The current report presents the latest consensus LCA results among the authors, PV LCA experts in North America, Europe and Asia. At this time consensus is limited to five technologies for which there are well-established and up-to-date LCI data: mono- and multi-crystalline Si, CdTe CIGS, and high concentration PV (HCPV) using III/V cells. The LCA indicators shown herein include Energy Payback Times (EPBT), Greenhouse Gas emissions (GHG), criteria pollutant emissions, and heavy metal emissions. Life Cycle Inventories (LCIs) are necessary for LCA and the availability of such data is often the greatest barrier for conducting LCA. The Task 12 LCA experts have put great efforts in gathering and compiling the LCI data presented in this report. These include detailed inputs and outputs during manufacturing of cell, wafer, module, and balance-of-system (i.e., structural- and electrical- components) that were estimated from actual production and operation facilities. In addition to the LCI data that support the LCA results presented herein, data are presented to enable analyses of various types of PV installations; these include operational data of rooftop and ground-mount PV systems and country-specific PV-mixes. The LCI datasets presented in this report are the latest that are available to the public describing the status in 2011 for crystalline Si, 2010-2011 for CdTe, 2010 for CIGS, and 2010 for HCPV technology. This report provides an update of the life cycle inventory data in Section 5 of the previous report: V. Fthenakis, H. C. Kim, R. Frischknecht, M. Raugei, P. Sinha, M. Stucki , 2011, Life Cycle Inventories and Life Cycle Assessment of Photovoltaic Systems, International Energy Agency(IEA) PVPS Task 12, Report T12-02:2011. Updates are provided for the crystalline silicon PV global supply chain (Section 5.1), thin film PV module manufacturing (Sections 5.2-5.3), PV mounting structures (Section 5.5), and country-specific electricity grid mixes (Section 5.9). Other sections of this report are the same as in the previous report. Electronic versions of the updated tables in Section 5 are available at IEA PVPS (; select Task 12 under Archive) and treeze Ltd (; under Publications).
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages86
StatePublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

See NREL/TP-6A20-88864 for the updated version of this report; NREL's Garvin Heath is a task manager of IEA PVPS Task 12

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-6A20-73853

Other Report Number

  • Report IEA-PVPS 12-04:2015


  • energy payback times
  • ground-mount PV
  • LCA


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