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Sustainability 2015, 7(2), 1213-1247;

Solar Photovoltaic Development in Australia—A Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment Study

Institute of Systems Sciences, Innovation and Sustainability Research (ISIS), University of Graz, Merangasse 18, Graz 8010, Austria
School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD 4072, Australia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Giuseppe Ioppolo
Received: 31 October 2014 / Accepted: 9 January 2015 / Published: 23 January 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environment and Energy: the Industrial Ecology perspective)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [1539 KB, uploaded 24 February 2015]   |  


Australia possesses the highest average solar radiation of any continent in the world, but solar energy in total contributes less than 1% to Australia’s primary energy consumption. This study intends to assess whether solar photovoltaic (PV) is really a sustainable option for Australia’s energy transition on the project level. A life cycle sustainability assessment (LCSA) was conducted on a 1.2 MW flat-roof mounted PV solar array called UQ Solar, and the results suggested UQ Solar performed well in environmental aspects, except for emissions of several criteria air pollutants. It was economically feasible only with the grant provided by the Queensland government and the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) was more or less the same as the LCOE of offset electricity. However, its social performance was not as good as expected. Large-scale PV installations can be sustainable in Australia on several conditions. PV manufacturers should be more responsible for reducing the use of hazardous materials; end-of-life treatment should be taken good care of; government should truly support the deployment of large-scale PV installation by providing more incentives and infrastructures; substantial subsidies for fossil fuel power stations should phase out; more awareness and training activities should be organized to promote social acceptance. View Full-Text
Keywords: LCSA; solar PV; UQ Solar; energy payback time (EPBT); LCOE; grid parity; social sustainability; Australia LCSA; solar PV; UQ Solar; energy payback time (EPBT); LCOE; grid parity; social sustainability; Australia

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Yu, M.; Halog, A. Solar Photovoltaic Development in Australia—A Life Cycle Sustainability Assessment Study. Sustainability 2015, 7, 1213-1247.

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