Assessing the environmental performance of solar energy technologies

To make the best use of the rooftops for energy production in the Canton of Geneva, Services Industriels de Genève (SIG) commissioned Quantis to conduct an analysis of different solar energy technologies, comparing their environmental performance across their entire life cycle.

1+ Challenge

SIG is a Swiss utility services provider (water, gas, electricity and thermal energy, etc.) in the Canton of Geneva. The sustainable energy transition is a key component of the organization’s strategy and contributes directly to the Canton’s commitment to provide 100% renewable energy by 2050.

As part of this transition, SIG set out to assess how to make the best use of the canton’s rooftops for heat and electricity  production using solar energy and with the view of reducing its fossil fuel use. Quantis was commissioned to conduct a comprehensive analysis of different solar energy technologies, comparing their environmental performance across the entire life cycle, from panel production to use phase.

"Quantis’ expert guidance and the meticulousness of their analysis were invaluable in helping us navigate the complexities of this project. We now have a very clear picture of how to maximize the value of the rooftops in our canton that will bring us closer to our 2050 commitment."

Stève Honsberger
Directeur Gestion Opérationnel at Direction de la transition énergétique

2+ Insights

Analyzing the impacts of different renewable energy technologies is a complex task; it not only involves assessing different solar solutions across the entire life cycle, but it also requires a good understanding of the local marginal energy mix. To obtain an accurate picture of the marginal energy mix, seasonal demand patterns, with an hourly breakdown across an entire year, need to be considered.

3+ Actions

Quantis conducted a life cycle assessment for two solar thermal systems and one photovoltaic (PV) system, from upstream panel system production to the use phase, incorporating data on the local marginal mix. 

To ensure the assessment used the latest science and state-of-the-art knowledge about the primary and marginal energy mixes in Switzerland, Quantis organized a workshop with experts at the University of Geneva, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) and SIG for a roundtable discussion.

The analysis focused on climate change impacts. The results were presented in a detailed report with clear recommendations.

4+ Impact

The study results showed that the environmental benefits for all three solar solutions far outweigh the impact associated with their manufacturing.

With these results, Quantis identified a scenario that would maximize the environmental benefits of local rooftops by replacing non-renewable energy with a combination of solar thermal and PV panels and minimize energy wastage through smart configuration (for example, by avoiding heat wastage in the summer). One of the most efficient scenarios would result in 9 tons of CO2-eq savings per m2 of installed panel.

SIG now plans to use the project results for a public education and engagement campaign to encourage the adoption of solar technologies that will bring environmental benefits for the canton.

Want to explore this kind of project? Have a chat with...

Jonathan Ouziel
Sustainability Consultant

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