Climate Cooperation China
On behalf of the International Climate Initiative (IKI)

Research Project on Photovoltaics

In the Chinese coastal province of Jiangsu, the IKI is contributing to the enhancement of the industrial chain and recycling of the photovoltaic sector. 

From April 2021 to July 2022, the IKI project teamed up with the Credit Builder Certification Wuxi Co., Ltd (CBC), a state authorized provider of inspection, testing and certification and affiliated with the national Solar Photovoltaic Product Quality Supervision and Inspection Centre. 

Their aim was to carry out the research project “Research on Life-cycle Carbon Reduction of Photovoltaic Industrial Chain and Promoting Systematic Recycling in Jiangsu Province.”

Experts and representatives from the Jiangsu Photovoltaic Industry Association, the Wuxi Industry and Information Bureau (under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology) and the State Grid Wuxi Company (a local branch of the Chinese power utility) were among those involved in the project.

Credit: Unsplash

Research Achievements on PV Industry Standards 

In order to reduce the carbon footprint of the PV Industry Sector, a common understanding regarding criteria and standards of carbon footprint of life cycle emissions assessment must be established. Therefore, as a first step, a study on the evaluation criteria for the carbon footprint of photovoltaic products has been carried out. Three product categories for photovoltaic industry products have been developed: 

  • crystalline silicon photovoltaic modules, 
  • photovoltaic welding strips, 
  • solar streetlamps. 

The Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, a leading ministry for the industry perspective of the PV sector, presented the research results during a meeting where rules for product categories for the carbon footprint as well as evaluation methods were discussed. 

Furthermore, the project collected expertise and best practices from within China, as well as from abroad, on the relevant standards for the recovery of waste silicon photovoltaic modules. 

The resulting study for the management of decommissioned power stations, “Grading Evaluation Standard for the Recycle of Waste Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaic Modules,” is intended to serve as a basis for the evaluation of state-owned scrapped assets. 

Development of a Footprint Calculation Tool 

In order to support the PV industry with more concrete and practical measures, the research project has developed a photovoltaic carbon footprint calculation tool.

Through this tool it is easier and quicker for enterprises to calculate the footprint data and to understand the carbon foot printing through life cycle assessment. Enterprises who participated in the organized workshops and dissemination events showed particular interest in the tool. Apart from the complexity of calculation of products’ carbon footprint, with only a single accounting result, the platform can finally estimate three values corresponding to the scenarios of “no recycling,” “only recycling frame” and “full recycling”. In this way, photovoltaic module enterprises are encouraged to pay attention to the emission reduction effects of photovoltaic recycling and act accordingly. 

Outlook

This research project provides rich theoretical research results and practical experience for low carbon development and recycling management in the photovoltaic industry. Many well-known PV companies are communicating with the team for in-depth cooperation on PV recycling system construction. In the future, the team plans to further promote the greening of the PV industry in terms of international standard exchange, industry cooperation and platform services.

Background of PV industry in Jiangsu Province

China is the world’s leading country in photovoltaic (PV) production and installation, with a comprehensive industry chain, advanced technology and an international competitive advantage. The Jiangsu Province is particularly important as a PV production hub in China – the province caters to all stages of the PV supply chain, has the largest industrial scale and the highest degree of PV enterprise agglomeration. By 2021, there were more than 400 photovoltaic manufacturing enterprises with nearly 110,000 employees in the province. The photovoltaic module production capacity was about 90GW, and the output was about 70GW (accounting for nearly 40% of the national output).  The rapid development of the PV industry in the province brought about questions of waste recycling. Due to the high amount of installed PV modules in Jiangsu, a responsible recycling system including a process to recover materials for end-of-life solar panels is needed. PV modules contain valuable materials such as silicon, high-quality semiconductor materials and large quantities of glass. In addition, new materials, designs and practices can help to reduce PV manufacturing’s environmental impact by minimizing waste, energy use, negative effects on human health and pollution. 

More project related activities