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Solar Energy 80 (2006) 555563 www.elsevier.

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Life cycle assessment study of solar PV systems: An example of a 2.7 kWp distributed solar PV system in Singapore
R. Kannan a, K.C. Leong
a b

a,*

, R. Osman a, H.K. Ho a, C.P. Tso

School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Nanyang Technological University, 50 Nanyang Avenue, Singapore 639798, Singapore Faculty of Engineering and Technology, Multimedia University, Jalan Ayer Keroh Lama, 75450 Melaka, Malaysia Received 30 July 2003; received in revised form 23 March 2005; accepted 5 April 2005 Available online 13 June 2005 Communicated by: Associate Editor Aaron Sanchez-Juarez

Abstract In life cycle assessment (LCA) of solar PV systems, energy pay back time (EPBT) is the commonly used indicator to justify its primary energy use. However, EPBT is a function of competing energy sources with which electricity from solar PV is compared, and amount of electricity generated from the solar PV system which varies with local irradiation and ambient conditions. Therefore, it is more appropriate to use site-specic EPBT for major decision-making in power generation planning. LCA and life cycle cost analysis are performed for a distributed 2.7 kWp grid-connected monocrystalline solar PV system operating in Singapore. This paper presents various EPBT analyses of the solar PV system with reference to a fuel oil-red steam turbine and their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and costs are also compared. The study reveals that GHG emission from electricity generation from the solar PV system is less than one-fourth that from an oil-red steam turbine plant and one-half that from a gas-red combined cycle plant. However, the cost of electricity is about ve to seven times higher than that from the oil or gas red power plant. The environmental uncertainties of the solar PV system are also critically reviewed and presented. 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Solar PV; Greenhouse gas emissions; Life cycle assessment; Life cycle cost analysis; Distributed generation

1. Introduction Global warming caused by greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from combustion of fossil fuels has become an important environmental issue in the global arena. Unlike in the 1970s, the motivation now has been

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +65 6790 5596; fax: +65 6792 2619. E-mail address: mkcleong@ntu.edu.sg (K.C. Leong).

changed from the perceived fossil fuel depletion to global warming concerns. As a result, non-fossil energy sources are explored, and power generation from solar photovoltaic (PV) systems plays a prominent role. Although the operation of solar PV system is free from fossil fuel use, a considerable amount of energy is consumed in the manufacturing of solar PV modules. To quantify the energy consumed in the manufacturing of solar PV modules, numerous life cycle assessment (LCA) studies have been carried out (Hagedorn, 1989; Phylipsen and Alsema, 1995; Nieuwlaar et al., 1996;

0038-092X/$ - see front matter 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.solener.2005.04.008

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Kato et al., 1997; GEMIS, 2002; Karl and Theresa, 2002; Gagnon et al., 2002). These studies expressed the energy use in terms of energy pay back time (EPBT), which is the time required for the solar PV module to generate the equivalent amount of energy consumed in its manufacturing processes. A wide variation in the EPBT is found in these studies. Corkish (1997) and Karl and Theresa (2002) also provided summaries of EPBT of solar PV modules. As an alternative index, Gagnon et al. (2002) used the energy payback ratio which is the ratio between energy produced during the normal life span of the power generation system and energy required to build, maintain and fuel the generation equipment. From a broad view, EPBT is a function of the amount of energy used for manufacturing solar PV modules, quantity of electricity generated from the solar PV system and competing energy sources with which electricity from the solar PV system is compared. Although the energy consumption during manufacturing of solar PV modules does not vary signicantly with geographical location, the quantity of electricity generated from a solar PV system depends on its geographical location, e.g. solar irradiation and ambient temperature. In LCA studies, the eciency of the solar PV module is considered to be its eciency under the standard test conditions (STC) of 1000 W/m2 and 25 C. However, in actual operation of a solar PV system, STC do not prevail, particularly under tropical high humidity weather conditions where the ambient temperature is often above 30 C. It has been recorded that solar PV modules reached a temperature higher than 60 C during peak radiation hours in equatorial Singapore. Thus, its actual operating eciency is lower than that at STC. Therefore, none of the above factors can be considered in isolation, and it is more appropriate to use EPBT from local studies for more informed decision making. Thus, there is a need for site-specic life cycle evaluation to generate insights, at least to represent a region. This paper describes a LCA study carried out for a gridconnected 2.7 kWp mono-crystalline solar PV system, which has been operating in Singapore since May 2002. To consider its economic implications, a life cycle cost analysis (LCCA) is also included in this study. The LCA and LCCA results are compared with that of an oil-red steam turbine and gas red combined cycle plant.

was about 32 TW he (EMA, 2004a) and is projected to grow at an annual rate of 35% during 20032013 (APERC, 2003). About 97% of its power is generated from imported oil and natural gas while the rest is from waste incineration plants. In 2003, Singapore had 8919 MW installed power generating capacity consisting of 53% steam turbine and 30% combined cycle plants (EMA, 2003). However, electricity generation from natural gas-red combined cycle plants accounted for 61% (EMA, 2004b). Singapores wholesale electricity market (National Electricity Market of SingaporeNEMS) began its operations in 2003 (EMC, 2003). In the deregulated electricity market, the power sector faces heightened competition and market demands for costeective power generation. Due to Singapores small geographical area, non-fossil based energy sources for the power generation are limited. The only known source of renewable energy is solar radiation. The country receives an annual solar radiation of 1635 kW h/m2 (at Changi Airport [1 22 0 N, 103 59 0 E]) (Meteorological Service Singapore, 1997). However, large-scale power generation from solar PV systems is limited because of constraints in space. Thus, only small-scale solar PV systems can be considered for distributed generation. As a demonstration cum research project, the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) of Singapore installed an 8.9 kWp grid-connected solar PV system comprising 2.7 kWp mono-crystalline, 3.066 kWp poly-crystalline and 3.12 kWp CIS thin-lm to study their operational performances and cost-eectiveness (BCA, 2004). This study is based on the 2.7 kWp mono-crystalline solar PV system. 2.1. Description of the solar PV system The 2.7 kWp solar PV system consists of 36 monocrystalline modules (12 V, 75 Wp) mounted on a building rooftop with aluminium supporting structures and concrete blocks for the base (see Fig. 1). The 12 modules are connected in series to generate 204 V DC (900 Wp) at their rated voltage (under STC). Three strings, each having 12 modules, are connected to three inverters of 1.5 kVA capacity. The AC output from the inverters is connected to the three phases of the grid. Control units are installed in such a way as to use the electricity from the solar PV system rstly for the local load, i.e., within the building. Since electricity generated from the solar PV system is a small fraction of the buildings power demand, all the generated electricity is consumed within the building and hardly any electricity is exported (sold) to the grid. A data logger is installed to record electrical (power, voltage, current, power factor, etc.) and meteorological data (radiation, temperatures, wind speed, rain fall, humidity, etc.). Three phases of the inverters DC inputs and AC out-

2. Singapore power sector Singapore is one of the most industrialised and urbanised economies in South-East Asia with an area of 697 km2 and a population of 4.18 million. In 2003, the countrys gross domestic product was about US$100 billion (Singapore Department of Statistics, 2004). Singapores total electricity consumption in 2003

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Fig. 1. Solar PV modules mounted on the building rooftop.

puts are measured, and six sensors are installed to measure the temperature of the mono-crystalline solar PV modules. The annual net electricity generated from the solar PV system during June 2002 to May 2003 was 2623 kW he and 2581 kW he during June 2003 to May 2004. For the calculation of life cycle energy use, emissions and cost, an average annual power generation of 2600 kW he is used. The average net conversion eciency of the solar PV system (solar radiation to AC power output) varied between 7.3% and 8.9% while the measured eciency of the inverter is about 90%. Based on the manufacturers specications, the eciency of the solar PV module under STC is 11.86%.

4. Life cycle inventory The life cycle of the solar PV system is considered in three phases, viz. construction, operation and decommissioning. 4.1. Material inventory In the construction phase, solar PV modules, inverters and aluminium and concrete supporting structures are the major components. Fig. 3 shows the materials used for the solar PV system. In the operation and decommissioning phases, hardly any material inow is involved. 4.2. Life cycle energy use

3. Life cycle assessment of the 2.7 kWp solar PV system In this study, the conventional LCA procedure viz. goal and scope denition, life cycle inventory, impact assessment and improvement assessment, is used. The research methodology is described in detail in the authors previous paper (Kannan et al., 2004). The aim of this LCA study is to quantify the non-renewable primary energy use and GHG emissions from electricity generation from the solar PV system. All indicators of the study such as energy use, emissions and cost are indexed based on the functional unit which is dened as 1 kW h of AC electricity. Manufacturing of solar PV modules and balance of the system (BOS) such as inverters, supporting structures and their accessories, are included in the system boundary. Fig. 2 shows the LCA boundary. As can be seen from the material use, the construction phase is material intensive and therefore energy intensive. Numerous studies have been carried out to estimate the energy consumption in the manufacturing of mono-crystalline solar PV modules (Hagedorn, 1989; Kato et al., 1997; GEMIS, 2002; Karl and Theresa, 2002; Mathur et al., 2002). These are summarised in Table 1. It can be seen that the energy consumption for manufacturing of solar PV modules varied between 11 and 45 MW ht/kWp. The variations can be attributed to technological assumptions and system boundary. The study of Karl and Theresa (2002) is specic to the solar PV module used in the solar PV system and its specic energy consumption is 16 MW ht/kWp. This value is adopted for this LCA study. For aluminium and concrete supporting structures, the energy use is estimated

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Silicon production Energy

Energy

PV cell manufacturing

GHG* Emissions
Solar PV modules

Natural resources

Fabrication of PV modules Invertors Material (steel, glass, aluminium, cement, etc.) production Construction phase

Energy

Supporting structures

System boundary

Solar radiation

Operational phase

Electricity
Wastes disposal

Decommissioning phase
*All

the Energy

input streams have their corresponding GHG emission output

streams
Energy

Metal recycling

Fig. 2. LCA boundary of the solar PV system.

Fig. 3. Material use in the solar PV system.

based on their specic energy consumptions (GEMIS, 2002). The specic energy consumption for production of inverters is 0.17 MW he/kWp (Kato et al., 1997). Although the energy consumption data of Kato et al. (1997) are denominated as electrical energy (MW he), it is assumed to be the same magnitude in thermal energy (MW ht) as corroborated by other studies shown in Table 1. In the operational phase, there is no external source of energy supply. Though control systems are installed, they draw energy from the solar PV module itself. In the decommissioning phase, it is assumed that the solar PV module would be landlled after removing the aluminium frames (see Section 6). Therefore, in the

decommissioning phase, energy would be used for recycling of aluminium supporting structures and module frames. 10% of the module weight is considered as the aluminium frame (Phylipsen and Alsema, 1995). It is assumed that 90% of the aluminium would be recycled with 90% recovery rate. The recovered aluminium is debited from the construction phases aluminium use. Thus, the energy used of recycling of aluminium is shown separately (see Fig. 4). Energy used in transporting of all the materials associated with the solar PV system is estimated based on specic transportation energy (MJ/t-km) from GEMIS (2002). The solar PV modules and inverters were imported from the USA and Germany, respectively and assumed to be transported by ship. The other materials were obtained locally and transported by trucks. From the sum of the energy used in the three life cycle phases and transportation, energy use per functional unit (kW he) is calculated as 2.94 MJt/kW he. The manufacturing of solar PV modules accounted for 81% of the life cycle energy use. Fig. 4 shows the distribution of life cycle energy use. 4.3. EPBT analysis of the solar PV system Electricity generated from the solar PV system is compared with that from a 250 MW (centralised) oil-

R. Kannan et al. / Solar Energy 80 (2006) 555563 Table 1 Life cycle energy use in manufacturing of mono-crystalline solar PV module Source Hagedorn (1989) Kato et al. (1997) Mathur et al. (2002) Karl and Theresa (2002) GEMIS (2002)
a b

559

Primary energy use 1117.5 MW ht/kWpa

Processes included in the study Exploitation and preparation of raw materials, process energy, hidden energy of input materials and production equipment From quartz (production of MG silicon) to module fabrication O-grade silicon (from semiconductor industry) to module fabrication Manufacturing of silicon wafers to modules fabrication From growth of the silicon crystalline ingot to module fabrication From mineral sand to module fabrication

17.70 MW he/kWpb 12.4 MW he/kWp 40.55 MW ht/kWp 16 MW ht/kWpc 13.78 MW ht/kWpd

In dierent technology level in dierent time frame. Based on this study, the energy pay back time was 15.5 years for 1427 kW h/m2/year solar radiation. c For Siemens SP 75 module that is adopted for this LCA study. d Estimated from the energy requirement for production of mono-crystalline module (131.23 MW ht/ton) and the module requirement (105 ton/MWp).

words, the solar PV system consumes about 23% of the primary energy consumed in oil-red steam turbine plant. If the electricity from the solar PV system is compared with a natural gas-red combined cycle plant with a net eciency of 50%, then the EPBT will be 10.2 years. It can be seen that the EPBT varies with type of power generation technologies with which solar PV is compared and their operational boundary. Therefore, due consideration should be given when comparing EPBT with other studies. 4.4. Life cycle GHG emission
Fig. 4. Distribution of life cycle primary energy use in solar PV system.

red steam turbine plant with a net eciency of 33%. The EPBT of the solar PV system is calculated to be 6.74 years. Compared to the solar PV modules lifetime (expected to be 25 years), the solar PV system could still generate substantial amount of electricity. In Singapore, hidden1 energy use in electricity generation from oil-red steam turbine plant is about 8.8% of operational phase fuel consumption (Kannan et al., 2004). If the hidden energy use is considered in the EPBT calculation, then the EPBT becomes 6.19 years. Since the solar PV system is used as a distributed power system, no transmission and distribution (T&D) loss is incurred. If the T&D loss, which is about 4% in Singapore (World Bank, 2004), and energy used for development of T&D networks are accounted, the EPBT will be lower. When the 4% T&D loss alone is considered, then the EPBT will be 5.87 years. In other

It is the energy used in the construction of power plant, manufacturing of plant equipment and upstream processes of fuel-oil production.

In the life cycle of solar PV system, GHG emission potentially occurs from the energy used for the manufacturing of solar PV modules and the BOS. Since primary sources of energy usage are unknown, CO2 emission is estimated based on the average emission factor (IPCC, 1996) of coal, oil and gas as in the studies by van Margreet et al. (1994) and Phylipsen and Alsema (1995). CH4 or N2O emissions are ignored due to uncertainties in primary sources of energy use and its relatively insignicant magnitude. The GHG emission from electricity generation from the solar PV system is about 217 gCO2/kW he. The life cycle GHG, namely CO2, CH4 and N2O emission from the oil-red steam turbine is 937 g-CO2/ kW he (Kannan et al., 2004). When the T&D loss is included, it would be about 976 g-CO2/kW he. If the GHG emission from the solar PV system is compared with the oil-red steam turbine plant, it is less than one-fourth of the latter system. The life cycle emission from natural gas-red combined cycle with a net eciency of 50% is estimated to be 493 g-CO2/kW he including the T&D loss (Kannan et al., 2005). If the emission from the solar PV system is compared with the combined cycle plant, it is less than one-half of the latter system.

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4.5. Improvement assessment Three scenarios are studied for reducing the primary energy use of the solar PV system. These are (i) technology improvement in the manufacturing of solar PV modules, (ii) using alternative supporting structures and (iii) achieving better solar PV module eciency. For these three options, the EPBT of the solar PV system are estimated with reference to the oil-red steam turbine with a net eciency of 33%. 4.5.1. Technology improvement Manufacturing of the solar PV modules accounted for 81% of the life cycle energy use (see Fig. 4). Improvement in solar PV module production technology or mass production would lead to a reduction in energy usage. According to the manufacturers, energy usage could be reduced by 50% if the production is doubled. If the primary energy use in the manufacturing of solar PV module were to be reduced by 50%, then the life cycle primary energy use would reduce to 1.7 MJt/kW he and the EPBT would be 3.5 years. In such a case, the GHG emission would be about 129 g-CO2/kW he. 4.5.2. Changing of supporting structure The aluminium supporting structure accounted for about 10% of the life cycle energy use and the recycling of aluminium also accounted for another 7% (see Fig. 4). Instead of the aluminium structure, a concrete structure could be used and energy use could be further reduced. If the aluminium usage for supporting structure were to be reduced to 10% of the current aluminium use, then the life cycle primary energy use would decrease to 2.38 MJt/kW he and the EPBT would be 4.8 years. The GHG emission would be about 177 g-CO2/kW he. Alternatively, solar PV modules can be integrated into the building thereby minimising energy use and cost of supporting structure. 4.5.3. Eciency improvement Under the STC, the eciency of the solar PV module used in the solar PV system is 11.86%. However, its actual operational eciency is between 7.3% and 8.9% including inverter and line losses of 10%. A lower operating eciency could be due to high ambient- and module temperatures, with the latter reaching above 60 C during peak radiation hours. The power output of a solar PV module decreases by about 0.5% for every degree Celsius rise in cell temperature (BCA, 2004). If the eciency of the solar PV system were to be increased to 10.6% by natural cooling of modules or other means, the life cycle energy use would reduce to 2.2 MJt/kW he and the EPBT would be 4.5 years. The GHG emission would be about 165 g-CO2/kW he. From the above three scenarios, it can be seen that there is a potential to reduce the life cycle primary en-

ergy use. Life cycle energy use, EPBT and GHG emission from the solar PV system under the various combinations of the above scenarios are presented in Table 2. It can be seen that if all the above three scenarios were to be achieved, the primary energy use would reduce to as low as 0.9 MJt/kW he and the EPBT would be 1.8 years.

5. Life cycle cost analysis Costs involved in the three life cycle phases of the solar PV system are categorised as capital, operation and maintenance (O&M) and decommissioning costs (see Kannan et al., 2004 for LCCA formula). For the cost of the solar PV system, the current market prices of 5 US$/Wp for solar PV modules and 0.83 US$/Wp for inverters are used (Solarbuzz, 2005). The costs of supporting structures and installations are adopted from the actual project costs (@ 1.63 S$ = 1 US$) (BCA, 2004). The total capital cost of the solar PV system works out to be about 7.5 US$/Wp and its breakdown is shown in Fig. 5. For the capital cost, an annual interest of 5% payable over the solar PV systems operational life time of 25 years is used in LCCA. Since there is no fuel consumption in the operational phase, no energy costs occur in this phase. Although the solar PV system does not require regular maintenance, fortnightly cleaning of the solar PV module is carried out to reduce dust or dirt deposition on the solar PV modules. The cost of fortnight cleaning was estimated based on a large number of installations to minimise the manpower cost. It worked out to be 0.17% of the capital cost, which took into account an annual escalation rate of 1%. Cost involved in the dismantling of the solar PV system is estimated to be about US$ 7502. It is assumed that the solar PV modules would not have any salvage value. Instead, there may be costs in disposing the solar PV module. However, such costs are not considered due to a dearth of information. Nonetheless, a salvage value of US$ 4603 is used which took into account the aluminium supporting structures and aluminium frames of the solar PV modules. The net cost incurred in the decommissioning phase which took into account a discount rate of 1%. The life cycle cost of electricity generation from the solar PV system is 57 cents/kW he and its distribution is shown in Fig. 6. The capital cost accounted for 96% of the life cycle cost. Due to huge capital cost of the solar PV system, the interest on the capital plays a signicant

2 Cost data was obtained from the system suppliers through personal communication. 3 Based on market value of recyclable aluminum @ US$ 860 per tonne.

R. Kannan et al. / Solar Energy 80 (2006) 555563 Table 2 Improvement assessment of the solar PV system Scenarios Base case A. Energy use for manufacturing of solar PV module reduced by 50% B. Use of concrete supporting structure, i.e. aluminum use reduced to 10% C. Eciency of the solar PV system increase to 10.6% A+B B+C A+C A+B+C
a

561

Energy (MJt/kW he) 2.91 1.72 2.38 2.21 1.20 1.81 1.31 0.91

EPBTa (years) 5.87 3.48 4.81 4.47 2.42 3.66 2.65 1.84

CO2 emission (g/kW he) 217 129 177 165 89 135 98 68

Reference to oil-red steam turbine with a net eciency of 33%. Hidden energy use and T&D loss are also accounted.

PV module and inverter are shown in US$/Wp while BOS is the cost of supporting structures and installation cost i.e. about 1.68 US$/Wp. 5.1. Solar PV versus conventional power generation Life cycle cost of electricity generation from the oilred steam turbine plant is about 7.03 cents/kW he based on current market price of fuel-oil price of 200 US$ per tonne (Kannan et al., 2004; 10X Group, 2005). Therefore, the cost of electricity generation from the solar PV system is about eight times higher than that from the oil-red steam plant. Since, the solar PV system is used as a distributed power generation system, there is no T&D loss or costs involved in the establishment of the T&D network. In Singapore, the low tension (LT) at rate transmission cost is about 3.4 cents/kW h (Singapore Power, 2004). If it is considered as the T&D cost, then the cost of electricity generation from the solar PV system is about 5.5 times that of the oil-red power plant. The life cycle cost of electricity from the natural gasred combined cycle plant is about 4.94 per kW he at a gas price4 of US$ 5.34 per MMBTU (Kannan et al., 2005). It would be 8.34 per kW he if the T&D cost is included. The cost of electricity from the solar PV system will then be about seven times higher than the gas-red combined cycle plant. In late 2004, oil prices surged to a new high of US$55 per barrel (The Straits Times, 2004) while the fuel oil price was about US$ 218 per tonne (10X Group, 2005). To consider any such price shocks, a scenario is studied by assuming that fuel-oil prices would be double that of its current market price while the price of solar PV modules and inverter would reduce to half of their current price. In such a case, the cost of electricity would be 16.5 cents/kW he from the oil-red steam turbine
For a fuel-oil price of 200 US$ per tonne, natural gas price is about $ 5.34 per MMBTU as the natural gas price in Singapore is pegged to fuel-oil price (The Business Times, 2004).
4

Fig. 5. Capital cost distribution of solar PV system.

Fig. 6. Life cycle cost distribution of electricity generation from solar PV system.

role in deciding the cost of electricity. A scenario is studied for a range of interest rates as shown in Fig. 7. It can be seen that the cost of electricity is about 33 cents/kW he at zero interest rate. The prices of solar PV system have been historically declining at about 4% per annum and this decline is expected to continue (Solarbuzz, 2005). A scenario is studied to estimate the life cycle cost of electricity generation from the solar PV system at various solar PV system costs. Although the solar PV module and inverter costs would decline in the future, the cost of supporting structure or installation cost or O&M cost would not change signicantly. Thus, the cost scenario is studied by changing the cost of solar PV modules and inverters while the rest of the costs remain unchanged. The results are presented in Fig. 7. In the legend of Fig. 7, costs of the solar

562
Life cycle cost of electricity (/kWh)

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75

5.83 US$/Wp (Current market price) + BOS (1.68 US$/Wp) 6.5 US$/Wp + BOS 5 US$/Wp + BOS

60

45
4.5 US$/Wp + BOS

30

3 US$/Wp + BOS 2 US$/Wp + BOS

15 0%

1%

2%

3% 4% 5% Interest on capital cost

6%

7%

Fig. 7. Life cycle cost of electricity from solar PV system.

plant at fuel-oil price of 400 US$/tonne, including the T&D cost, and 36.15 cents/kW he from the solar PV system at solar PV module and inverter price of 3 US$/Wp (see Fig. 7). It can be seen that the cost of electricity from the solar PV system would now be about two times higher than that from the oil-red steam plant.

6. Environmental uncertainties of solar PV system From the life cycle energy use and GHG emission perspectives, the solar PV system is a good choice for power generation. However, studies have shown that large-scale exploitation of solar PV could lead to other types of undesirable environmental impacts in terms of material availability and waste disposal (Phylipsen and Alsema, 1995; Nieuwlaar et al., 1996; Fthenakis, 2000, 2004). Silver requirement for manufacturing solar PV modules could contribute to the depletion of silver resources. To meet 5% of the world electricity production from solar PV modules, their production would require about 30% of the current silver production (Phylipsen and Alsema, 1995). At the end of the life cycle, the solar PV system generates a substantial amount of waste (used module). The study of Phylipsen and Alsema (1995) revealed that weather-resistant encapsulation of the modules is a major bottleneck for reuse or recycling of the silicon wafers. Due to encapsulations, the glass waste from modules may contain too much plastics (EVA foil) to be accepted by glass recyclers. As can be seen from this study, a 1 MW solar PV plant could generate as much as 90 tonnes of used solar PV modules, which may have to be landlled. Since the anticipated lifetime of the solar PV is about 25 years, waste generation will lag behind the installations of solar PV modules. As we increase the rate of installation of solar PV modules, large-scale disposal of solar PV module may be another problem in the future. The presence of small amounts of regulated materials (e.g. Ag, Pb and Cd) (Fthenakis, 2000) in solar PV pan-

els may also cause undesirable environmental impacts when they are landlled. So far, no proven technology has been developed for large-scale disposal of solar PV modules. The studies of Fthenakis (2000, 2004) concluded that recycling is technologically and economically feasible, but not without careful forethought. People in the solar PV industry are claiming that there should not be any environmental problem in disposing the solar PV panels because no hazardous material is expected to be released by the panels. However, we have seen that environmental problems could come in any form such as global warming from CO2, a non-hazardous gas. Therefore, the negative effects of solar PV technology must be studied to ensure its environmental sustainability.

7. Conclusions LCA and LCCA are performed for a solar PV system in Singapore. From the perspectives of fossil energy use and GHG emission, the solar PV system is a good choice to address current energy-environmental issues. However, the cost of electricity generation from solar PV systems is not comparable with fossil fuel-based technologies, particularly at the current market price. If environmental externalities were to be accounted, then solar PV systems would compete favourably with fossil fuel based power generation. A reliable externality cost is unfortunately not yet established. Nonetheless, cost should not be the sole criterion in decision making because climate change may become a more serious risk. Oil price and political uncertainties may be even more critical for oil importing countries. Therefore, eorts should be taken to explore all possible means to harness available solar radiation. Although there are constraints in space for installation of solar PV systems in Singapore, built-up areas can be used eectively and annually about 1000 GWhe could be easily tapped. This would require an installed capacity of about 1000 MWp and costs several billions

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of dollars. Eventually, it would be less than 3% of the total electricity demand. Also, the disposal possibilities of solar PV modules have to be studied in the Singapore context due to the limited land availability for landlling. Acknowledgements The Building and Construction Authority, Singapore provided the data for this work. The authors gratefully acknowledge the extensive support of Mr. C.M. Bok and Mr. K.S. Cheong and their comments on this paper. References
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