Researchers at the National Solar Energy Institute (INES) – a division of the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) – have developed a heterojunction (HJT) solar module for residential applications based on eco-design principles.
The demonstration module has a power output of 566 W, an average efficiency of 22.9%, and features a gapless design. The HJT cells are manufactured in France on CEA’s pilot line at INES and include innovations limiting the consumption of indium and silver.
“It achieves a very low carbon footprint of 317 kgCO2eq/kWp compared to standard Chinese products (700 to 800 kgCO2eq/kW) and places our laboratories among the leaders in Europe,” CEA said in a statement.
The new module uses Norwegian-made silicon wafers with a thickness of 130 microns instead of 170 microns, thereby reducing the carbon footprint on a cell scale. The wafers’ polysilicon was sourced from Germany.
The panel is fully assembled in France and uses 2 mm glass. It features a frame made of wood material available in Europe, replacing the standard aluminum frame. This reportedly reduced the carbon footprint by more than 50 kgCO2eq/kW.
The low carbon mix in the electricity mix in Germany, Norway, and France was the main factor in reducing the module’s carbon footprint. According to CEA, these countries have a carbon mix of 650 gCO2eq/kWh, 29 gCO2eq/kWh, and 52 gCO2eq/kWh, respectively, compared to the Chinese mix, with a carbon balance of 1023 gCO2eq/kWh.
“A ‘design for recycle' approach has led to the choice of fluorine-free thermoplastic encapsulants and back sheets of European origin, which will facilitate recycling,” said CEA.
The eco-design approach included a life cycle assessment in accordance with ISO14040 and ISO14044 standards.
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