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Environmental Impacts of Solar Thermal Systems with Life Cycle Assessment

Abstract : Solar thermal systems are an ecological way of providing domestic hot water. They are experiencing a rapid growth since the beginning of the last decade. This study characterizes the environmental performances of such installations with a life-cycle approach. The methodology is based on the application of the international standards of Life Cycle Assessment. Two types of systems are presented. Firstly a temperate-climate system, with solar thermal collectors and a backup energy as heat sources. Secondly, a tropical system, with thermosiphonic solar thermal system and no backup energy. For temperate-climate systems, two alternatives are presented: the first one with gas backup energy, and the second one with electric backup energy. These two scenarios are compared to two conventional scenarios providing the same service, but without solar thermal systems. Life cycle inventories are based on manufacturer data combined with additional calculations and assumptions. The fabrication of the components for temperate-climate systems has a minor influence on overall impacts. The environmental impacts are mostly explained by the additional energy consumed and therefore depend on the type of energy backup that is used. The study shows that the energy pay-back time of solar systems is lower than 2 years considering gas or electric energy when compared to 100% gas or electric systems.
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Alexis de Laborderie, Clément Puech, Nadine Adra, Isabelle Blanc, Didier Beloin-Saint-Pierre, et al.. Environmental Impacts of Solar Thermal Systems with Life Cycle Assessment. World Renewable Energy Congress - Sweden, May 2011, Linköping, Sweden. pp.3678-3685 - ISBN 978-91-7393-070-3, ⟨10.3384/ecp110573678⟩. ⟨hal-00668172⟩

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