Combining circularity and environmental metrics to assess material flows of PV silicon
Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE), Heidenhofstr. 2, 79110 Freiburg, Germany
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Received in final form: 3 November 2022
Accepted: 8 December 2022
Published online: 23 February 2023
A product made from virgin raw materials that ends up in a landfill presents a linear supply chain model. Today's photovoltaic (PV) industry is still largely based on this model. With the increasing volume of production, the raw materials required for it, and consequently the volume of waste, the application of circular economy principles in the PV sector can significantly increase its environmental efficiency. This study analyzes the impact of circularity on the supply chain of PV silicon used for PV module production. Four scenarios based on the combination of technological pathways and circularity options are created. Their evaluation is carried out by the methodologies of Material Circularity Indicator (MCI) and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). The State-of-art case of the PV polysilicon supply chain corresponds to the MCI score of 0.54. Closed-loop circularity solutions provide the MCI score of 0.80 presenting the potential for a circular economy approach in the industry. LCA results show the reduction of environmental impact by 12% with improved circularity. The study presents the benefits of potential circularity options within the supply chain as well as the impact of technological development on the polysilicon demand.
Key words: Circularity / life cycle assessment / photovoltaics / polysilicon / metrics
© A.R. Zubas et al., Published by EDP Sciences, 2023
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.