The photovoltaic (PV) sector has undergone both major expansion and evolution over the last decades, and currently, the technologies already marketed or still in the laboratory/research phase are numerous and very different. Likewise, in order to assess the energy and environmental impacts of these devices, life cycle assessment (LCA) studies related to these systems are always increasing. The objective of this paper is to summarize and update the current literature of LCA applied to different types of grid-connected PV, as well as to critically analyze the results related to energy and environmental impacts generated during the life cycle of PV technologies, from 1st generation (traditional silicon based) up to the third generation (innovative non-silicon based). Most of the results regarded energy indices like energy payback time, cumulative energy demand, and primary energy demand, while environmental indices were variable based on different scopes and impact assessment methods. Moreover, the review work allowed to highlight and compare key parameters (PV type and system, geographical location, efficiency), methodological insights (functional unit, system boundaries, etc.), and energy/environmental hotspots of 39 LCA studies relating to different PV systems, in order to underline the importance of these aspects, and to provide information and a basis of comparison for future analyses.
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