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Real Energy Payback Time and Carbon Footprint of a GCPVS

1 Energy Resources’ Smart Management (ERESMA) Research Group, Department of Electric, Systems and Automatics Eng., University of León, Campus de Vegazana s/n, León, 24071, Spain.
2 Solar andWind Feasibility Technologies (SWIFT) Research Group, Department of Electromecanics Engineering, University of Burgos, Campus de Río Vena s/n, Burgos 09001, Spain.

Special Issues: Solar PV Energy

Grid connected PV systems, or GCPVS, produce clean and renewable energy through the photovoltaic effect in the operation stage of the power plant. However, this is the penultimate stage of the facilities before its dismantlement. Before starting generating electricity with zero CO2 emissions, a negative energy balance exists mainly because of the embodied energy costs of the PV components manufacturing, transport and late dismantlement. First, a review of existing studies about energy life cycle assessment (LCA) and Carbon Footprint of PV systems has been carried out in this paper. Then, a new method to evaluate the Real Energy Payback Time (REPBT), which includes power looses due to PV panels degradation is proposed and differences with traditional Energy Payback Time are analysed. Finally, a typical PV grid connected plant (100 kW nominal power) located in Northern Spain is studied in these sustainability terms. This facility has been firstly completely modelled, including PV modules, inverters, structures and wiring. It has been also considerated the energy involved in the replacement of those components with shorter lifespan. The PV panels degradation has been analysed through the comparison of normalised flash test reports on a significant sample of the installed modules before and 5 years after installation. Results show that real PV degradation affect significantly to the Energy Payback Time of the installation increasing slightly a 4:2% more the EPBT value for the case study. However, along a lifespan of 30 years, the GCPVS under analysis will return only 5:6 times the inverted energy on components manufacturing, transport and installation, rather than the expected 9:1 times with the classical estimation.
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