July 18, 2022, 4:15 p.m.

Sustainable photovoltaics technologies

As photovoltaics (PV) becomes a major source of electricity production, new questions emerge about the environmental impact of manufacturing solar modules, the toxicity of the modules, the impact on land and ecosystems during and after system installation, and finally, modules recyclability at end-of-life. Concerns from the public and opposition groups can also create significant delays and costs in project deployments due to the lack of studies on the environmental benefit, toxicity, or end-of-life management of PV. Anticipatory sustainability assessment can evaluate the potential environmental impact of current and future technologies. Results are helpful to address misconceptions about solar impacts and guide greener PV module design, construction, and recycling. Examples of recent projects on transparent photovoltaics for building-integrated PV, tellurium scarcity, modules toxicity, and solar co-location with agriculture will be presented.

Annick Anctil is an associate professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Michigan State University, where she leads research on Sustainable Energy Systems. She holds a BE and MS in Materials Engineering and a PhD in Sustainability. The core of her research is evaluating the environmental impact of photovoltaics technologies. She participated in the NSF International Standard on Sustainability Leadership for Photovoltaics Module and the EPEAT Ultra-low carbon solar modules criteria. She is the assistant director of the DOE-MSU Industrial Assessment Center and received an NSF CAREER award in 2021 to work on the impact of the solar photovoltaics industry in the US. She was selected as a Michigan Clean Energy Leader in 2018 and is currently on the board of directors of the Michigan Institute for Energy Innovation (IEI) and Advancing Women in Energy (AWE).