Headline: Life cycle cost analysis of solar energy via environmental externality monetization

Evaluating the embodied environmental impact of solar photovoltaic (PV) technology has been an important topic in addressing the sustainable development of renewable energy. While monetization of environmental externality is a remaining issue, which should be carried out in order to allow for an easy-to-understand comparison between direct economic and external cost. In this study, the environmental impact of solar PV power is monetized through conversion factors between midpoint and endpoint categories of life cycle analysis and the monetization weighting factor. Then, the power generation capacity and generation life of PV and coal-fired power plants are assumed to be consistent in order to compare the total cost of PV and coal-fired power generation. Results show that the cost of PV technology is higher than coal-fired in 2026 to 2030, taking into account environmental external costs and production costs. However, by 2030, the total cost of coal-fired power will be higher than that of solar PV. The life span cost per kWh is $3.55 for solar PV and $116.25 for coal-fired power. Although solar PV power seems more environmentally effective than coal-fired power in the life span, our results reveal the high environmental external cost of producing solar photovoltaic modules, which reminds us to pay more attention to the environmental impact when conducting cost-benefit analysis of renewable technologies. Without incorporating the environmental cost, the real cost of renewable technology will be underestimated.

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Huang, B., Wang, Y., Huang, Y., Xu, X., Chen, X., Duan, L., Yu, G., Li, Z., Liu, H., Kua, H., & Xue, B. (2023). Life cycle cost analysis of solar energy via environmental externality monetization. The science of the total environment, 856(Part 1): 158910. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.158910.

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