GHG Emissions

Life cycle: Comparison of photovoltaics and coal

Many people argue about GHG emissions of PV panels, and they think that it is more harmful for the Nature than fossil fuel.

But let’s check the numbers from reputable source out. Accounting for emissions from all phases of the project (construction, operation, and decommissioning) is called a life cycle approach. The lower the value, the less GHG emissions are emitted.

Some generation methods such as coal fired power plants release the majority of GHGs during operation. Others, such as solar or wind power plants, release the majority of emissions during construction and decommissioning.

LC_GHG_HelioRec_NREL
Life cycle GHG emissions of different technologies, NREL

 

So, PV technology produces 20 times less GHG emissions during its life cycle  than coal.

And another logical question can be: why we can not use another renewable energy source – wind energy? It has twice less GHG emissions than PV. And answer is very simple – wind is not strong enough everywhere:

Country GPS coordinates Mean wind speed, m/s
China 37.57303, 121.39782 4.3
India 11.681430, 92.726390 4.5
Indonesia 33.3027, 126.15858 3.5
Malaysia 4.314230, 113.740080 4.2

Studies have found that average wind speeds in a particular location need to exceed at least 6–8 m/s for a small wind turbine to be economically viable.

GHG_HelioRec

 

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