Economy and environment

The CEA at INES is developing diagnostic tools and competitive technologies for a better control of the environmental impact of photovoltaic devices. Research activities mainly concern the crystalline silicon-based photovoltaic sector. They respond to three major challenges:

  • To set up tools for life cycle analysis and evaluation of the economic and environmental impact of technological solutions.
  • Develop innovative technological solutions for the management and recycling of end-of-life devices.
  • Develop new generations of eco-designed photovoltaic panels that take into account recyclability, reliability and durability.

Life cycle assessment and economic modeling

Photovoltaic energy is becoming one of the cheapest sources of energy, thanks to improved device efficiency and economies of scale in production. The challenge for this industry, like all others, is to reduce further the environmental impacts over the entire life cycle of photovoltaic devices: Production - Operation - End of life.

The CEA at INES is developing a life cycle assessment and analysis tool to compare the different technologies used. This tool evaluates the different environmental impacts of a given technology and helps to identify levers for improvement and development. It also allows an evaluation of the economic impact of the solutions developed.

Towards eco-designed modules

Photovoltaic panels are currently achieving high levels of performance and historically low price levels. Reducing the environmental footprint of these devices by developing new eco-designed concepts is the next challenge. In addition to ensuring performance and low cost levels, these devices will have to take into account the low environmental impact of the materials used and the manufacturing processes, durability and recyclability at the end of their life.

The CEA at INES, which has demonstrated its ability to take laboratory results to industrialization, is already investing in this development path by exploring new PV module concepts, the use and integration of new materials (bio-sourced, from recycling, ensuring recyclability, etc.) and the development of process solutions with a low carbon footprint.

Recycling of end-of-life modules: a reality

The recycling of end-of-life photovoltaic modules has been mandatory and regulated in Europe for 10 years. Many solutions have been developed to meet the recycling and material recovery criteria defined in European directives.

The CEA at INES conducts research to develop solutions for better recovery of the materials that make up solar panels with a view to economic efficiency and environmental impact. Since 2014, our laboratories have acquired European and international visibility in this field of technological development.


The Materials Platform offers a range of characterization and development equipment enabling proofs of concept to be carried out and pilot-scale demonstrations to be carried out. The characterization devices also allow a global exploration of materials (morphological, electrical, composition...) but also a more detailed and detailed exploration (optical microscopy, SEM, µ-FTIR, µ-Raman...).

The Modules platform offers all the necessary versatility on 1500 m² and is equipped with industrial-type equipment to shorten the transfer to industry as much as possible.

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