Solar energy is one of the most suitable renewable sustainable energy options with the opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The use of photovoltaic (PV) technology is carbon neutral; however, the manufacturing of panels produces measurable carbon emissions. Recently, Canadian solar panel companies filed a complaint with the Canadian government claiming subsidized PV modules from China were being dumped into Canada and were threatening the domestic industry. In response, import duties were applied to imported Chinese solar equipment. Aside from the trade issues, this study seeks to examine if there is merit in addressing any carbon emission costs to importing from China as compared to manufacturing PV solar modules in Ontario.Using the CS6X-P PV module as a case study, a life cycle assessment (LCA) was performed to evaluate environmental impacts from manufacturing. Two supply chain scenarios were compared to develop environmental and economic costs for PV modules. The carbon emission difference between the current supply chain involving imports of Chinese PV modules into Ontario, Canada and a hypothetical Ontario-based supply chain was calculated to determine a comparative carbon cost. LCA results for the CS6X-P show that when environmental impacts are translated into an economic cost, it is not significant enough to encourage a change in the current supply chain for Ontario-based manufacturing. This study challenges current policies of pricing carbon in Canada.
Philip Walsh, Ryerson University, Canada
Elizabeth Nguyen, Ryerson University, Canada