Matching Items (3)

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Recycling valuable materials from crystalline-Si solar modules

Description

A major obstacle to sustainable solar technologies is end-of-life solar modules. In this thesis, a recycling process is proposed for crystalline-Si solar modules. It is a three-step process to break

A major obstacle to sustainable solar technologies is end-of-life solar modules. In this thesis, a recycling process is proposed for crystalline-Si solar modules. It is a three-step process to break down Si modules and recover various materials. Over 95% of a module by weight can be recovered with this process. Two new technologies are demonstrated to enable the proposed recycling process. One is sequential electrowinning which allows multiple metals to be recovered one by one from Si modules, Ag, Pb, Sn and Cu. The other is sheet resistance monitoring by the 4-point probe which maximizes the amount of solar-grade Si recovered from Si modules with high throughput. The purity of the recovered metals is above 99% and the recovery rate can achieve between 70~80%. The recovered Si meets the specifications for solar-grade Si and at least 91% of Si from c-Si solar cells can be recovered. The recovered Si and metals are new feedstocks to the solar industry and generate over $12/module in revenue. This revenue enables a profitable recycling business for Si modules without any government support. The chemicals for recycling are carefully selected to minimize their environmental impact and also the cost. A network for collecting end-of-life solar modules is proposed based on the current distribution network for solar modules to contain the collection cost. As a result, the proposed recycling process for c-Si modules is technically, environmentally and financially sustainable.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2018

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An anticipatory-lifecycle approach towards increasing the environmental gains from photovoltaic systems through improved manufacturing and recycling

Description

Photovoltaics (PV) is an environmentally promising technology to meet climate goals and transition away from greenhouse-gas (GHG) intensive sources of electricity. The dominant approach to improve the environmental gains from

Photovoltaics (PV) is an environmentally promising technology to meet climate goals and transition away from greenhouse-gas (GHG) intensive sources of electricity. The dominant approach to improve the environmental gains from PV is increasing the module efficiency and, thereby, the renewable electricity generated during use. While increasing the use-phase environmental benefits, this approach doesn’t address environmentally intensive PV manufacturing and recycling processes.

Lifecycle assessment (LCA), the preferred framework to identify and address environmental hotspots in PV manufacturing and recycling, doesn’t account for time-sensitive climate impact of PV manufacturing GHG emissions and underestimates the climate benefit of manufacturing improvements. Furthermore, LCA is inherently retrospective by relying on inventory data collected from commercial-scale processes that have matured over time and this approach cannot evaluate environmentally promising pilot-scale alternatives based on lab-scale data. Also, prospective-LCAs that rely on hotspot analysis to guide future environmental improvements, (1) don’t account for stake-holder inputs to guide environmental choices in a specific decision context, and (2) may fail in a comparative context where the mutual differences in the environmental impacts of the alternatives and not the environmental hotspots of a particular alternative determine the environmentally preferable alternative

This thesis addresses the aforementioned problematic aspects by (1)using the time-sensitive radiative-forcing metric to identify PV manufacturing improvements with the highest climate benefit, (2)identifying the environmental hotspots in the incumbent CdTe-PV recycling process, and (3)applying the anticipatory-LCA framework to identify the most environmentally favorable alternative to address the recycling hotspot and significant stakeholder inputs that can impact the choice of the preferred recycling alternative.

The results show that using low-carbon electricity is the most significant PV manufacturing improvement and is equivalent to increasing the mono-Si and multi-Si module efficiency from a baseline of 17% to 21.7% and 16% to 18.7%, respectively. The elimination of the ethylene-vinyl acetate encapsulant through mechanical and chemical processes is the most significant environmental hotspot for CdTe PV recycling. Thermal delamination is the most promising environmental alternative to address this hotspot. The most significant stake-holder input to influence the choice of the environmentally preferable recycling alternative is the weight assigned to the different environmental impact categories.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2016

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Photovoltaic capacity additions: the optimal rate of deployment with sensitivity to time-based GHG emissions

Description

Current policies subsidizing or accelerating deployment of photovoltaics (PV) are typically motivated by claims of environmental benefit, such as the reduction of CO2 emissions generated by the fossil-fuel fired power

Current policies subsidizing or accelerating deployment of photovoltaics (PV) are typically motivated by claims of environmental benefit, such as the reduction of CO2 emissions generated by the fossil-fuel fired power plants that PV is intended to displace. Existing practice is to assess these environmental benefits on a net life-cycle basis, where CO2 benefits occurring during use of the PV panels is found to exceed emissions generated during the PV manufacturing phase including materials extraction and manufacture of the PV panels prior to installation. However, this approach neglects to recognize that the environmental costs of CO2 release during manufacture are incurred early, while environmental benefits accrue later. Thus, where specific policy targets suggest meeting CO2 reduction targets established by a certain date, rapid PV deployment may have counter-intuitive, albeit temporary, undesired consequences. Thus, on a cumulative radiative forcing (CRF) basis, the environmental improvements attributable to PV might be realized much later than is currently understood. This phenomenon is particularly acute when PV manufacture occurs in areas using CO2 intensive energy sources (e.g., coal), but deployment occurs in areas with less CO2 intensive electricity sources (e.g., hydro). This thesis builds a dynamic Cumulative Radiative Forcing (CRF) model to examine the inter-temporal warming impacts of PV deployments in three locations: California, Wyoming and Arizona. The model includes the following factors that impact CRF: PV deployment rate, choice of PV technology, pace of PV technology improvements, and CO2 intensity in the electricity mix at manufacturing and deployment locations. Wyoming and California show the highest and lowest CRF benefits as they have the most and least CO2 intensive grids, respectively. CRF payback times are longer than CO2 payback times in all cases. Thin film, CdTe PV technologies have the lowest manufacturing CO2 emissions and therefore the shortest CRF payback times. This model can inform policies intended to fulfill time-sensitive CO2 mitigation goals while minimizing short term radiative forcing.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2013