Life cycle analyses of organic photovoltaics : a reviewLife cycle analyses of organic photovoltaics : a review
Faculty of Sciences. Bioscience Engineering
Environmental Ecology & Microbiology (ENdEMIC)
Engineering sciences. Technology
Energy & environmental science. - -
6(2013):11, p. 3136-3149
This paper reviews the available life cycle analysis (LCA) literature on organic photovoltaics (OPVs). This branch of OPV research has focused on the environmental impact of single-junction bulk heterojunction polymer solar cells using a P3HT/PC60BM active layer blend processed on semi-industrial pilot lines in ambient surroundings. The environmental impact was found to be strongly decreasing through continuous innovation of the manufacturing procedures. The current top performing cell regarding environmental performance has a cumulative energy demand of 37.58 MJp m(-2) and an energy payback time in the order of months for cells having 2% efficiency, thereby rendering OPV cells one of the best performing PV technologies from an environmental point of view. Nevertheless, we find that LCA literature is lagging behind on the main body of OPV literature due to the lack of readily available input data. Still, LCA research has led us to believe that in the quest for higher efficiencies, environmental sustainability is being disregarded on the materials' side. Hence, we advise the scientific community to take the progress made on environmental sustainability aspects of OPV preparations into account not only because standard procedures put a bigger strain on the environment, but also because these methods may not be transferrable to an industrial process. Consequently, we recommend policy makers to subsidize research that bridges the gaps between fundamental materials research, stability, and scalability given that these constraints have to be fulfilled simultaneously if OPVs are ever to be successful on the market. Additionally, environmental sustainability will have to keep on being monitored to steer future developments in the right direction.