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Should photovoltaics stay at home? Comparative life cycle environmental assessment on roof-mounted and ground-mounted photovoltaics

Kouloumpis Viktor, Kalogerakis Antonios, Pavlidou, Anastasia, Tsinarakis Georgios, Arampatzis Georgios

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Year 2020
Type of Item Peer-Reviewed Journal Publication
Bibliographic Citation V. Kouloumpis, A. Kalogerakis, A. Pavlidou, G. Tsinarakis and G. Arampatzis, “Should photovoltaics stay at home? Comparative life cycle environmental assessment on roof-mounted and ground-mounted photovoltaics,” Sustainability, vol. 12, no. 21, Nov. 2020. doi: 10.3390/su12219120
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Renewable energy technologies like photovoltaics may be considered an indispensable component of a low-carbon electricity mix, but social acceptance should not be taken for granted. For instance, in Greece there are still claims, especially in rural areas, regarding the land use and the competition against more traditional economic activities such as grazing. An argument in favor of confining to roof-mounted photovoltaic installations is the additional infrastructure requirements for ground-mounted larger-scale photovoltaics. These requirements reduce and could potentially negate their environmental benefits. The aim of this study is to investigate the life cycle environmental impacts of commercial ground-mounted photovoltaic farms and compare them against residential roof-mounted photovoltaic installations. Data were gathered for a 500 kW ground-mounted photovoltaic installation and for five roof-mounted installations of 10 kW capacity, each from the same area at the prefecture of Pella in Northern Greece. An LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) was performed and results show that panel production is the main contributor for both types and that ground-mounted photovoltaics—when no transmission/distribution infrastructure is considered—have lower impacts than the roof-mounted residential photovoltaic installations for all impact categories except terrestrial ecotoxicity. However, when located further than 10.22 km from grid connection, ground-mounted photovoltaics have higher impacts for almost all environmental impact categories.

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