Which software would be best to conduct an LCA for a photovoltaic system?

Hello everyone,

Which software would be best to conduct an LCA for a photovoltaic system?

Athena Impact Estimator and the EC3 tool don’t have a materials database to support PV LCA.

One-Click LCA is my number one option. However, the materials are limited to only two PV modules, and there is no information about materials such as mounting structure, inverters, and cables.

There is also, SimaPro, Open LCA, and many others.

Which software would you recommend to do an LCA for a PV system?

Thank you,
Eslam Elshorbagy
MASc Candidate in Civil Engineering & Policy
The University of Ottawa

Hi Eslam,

This is an EPD issue, not an LCA software issue. We just don’t have many Environmental Product Declarations for PV panels (it seems).


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Thank you, Scott, for pointing this out. So, what is the best approach to conducting such LCA, even using generic data in case, there is a lack of EPDs?

Unfortunately you have to use what is available, e.g. the SimaPro panel EPD.

You can do some research on racking systems and probably figure out some generic rules of thumb of lbs/kg per linear foot/meter of panel. Electrical infrastructure based on your building’s design, how many linear feet from PV to electrical panel, etc. Inverters seem to still be missing piece of information, like lots of other equipment, unfortunately.

I think you’ll quickly learn that there is no easy way to do this. You often have to piece it all together yourself.

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Thank you again for your help. I guess I can do it with some research; although some limitations might remain, it would be fair enough.

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I came across a chart that compares the material consumption b/w Solar/ Wind/Offshore Wind RE. Sharing it. If it helps benchmark on a rough scale.

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In One Click LCA you could use like pointed out some generic PV panel data points, EPDs from Europe (which there are more than two (you need global carbon tool for that not leed) or build your own if you can get material details from manufacturer.

Kind regards,


I am sorry for this late reply. Thank you, @ScottFarbman, Dr. @kanwal, and @Johanna_Jarvinen. Your inputs and advice were significantly important for conducting the LCA for solar panels. I have successfully defended my master’s thesis. Recherche uO Research: Exploring the Intersection of Science and Policy: The Case Study of Installing Solar Panels and Energy Storage System at the University of Ottawa

I wanted to share also that Steven Zijlstra’s article from One Click LCA supports Scott’s excellent recommendation.

Kind regards,


Congratulations Eslam! Your research on Solar Panel-LCA will have a large significance in expanding further WBLCA studies.

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