Evaluation of energy and environmental performances of Solar Photovoltaic-based Targeted Poverty Alleviation Plants in China

Chaofan Wang, Xin Cheng*, Chuanmin Shuai, Fubin Huang, Pan Zhang, Min Zhou, Ruizhi Li

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


The projects that combine solar photovoltaics (PV) and poverty alleviation (PA) are the explorations of sustainable development (SD) from the Chinese government, aiming at both reducing the number of rural poor and the intensity of carbon emissions. Currently, the actual energy and environmental performances of those Photovoltaic-based Targeted Poverty Alleviation Plants (PV-PAPs) remain to be validated. Based on the field survey data from 23 grid-connected PV-PAPs in 7 provinces of China, with a total installed capacity of 51.39 MW, this study evaluated their energy and environmental benefits by adopting the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and the Net Energy Analysis (NEA) methods. The following indicators of PV-PAPs were calculated: Energy Payback Time (EPBT), Energy Return on Investment (EROIPE-eq), Greenhouse Gas Emission Rate (GHGe-R) and Carbon Payback Time (CPBT). The results show that: (1) The EPBT of 23 power stations would be 0.79–1.94 years, the EROIPE-eq range from 15.48 to 38.15, the range of GHGe-R would be 43.34–106.78 g/kWh, and the CPBT range from 1.88 to 5.11 years. Even in areas with poor solar radiation, PV-PAPs still have good energy efficiency and environmental benefits. (2) The indirect environmental cost incurred by human factors should be highlighted. It might lead to the change of benefits, such as the GHGe-R, which might fluctuate from 0 to 51.44 g/kWh for the power plants with similar technical specifications. (3) Compared with traditional coal-fired electricity generation (EG), the PV EG could reduce carbon emissions by 87.35–94.9%. This study reveals the status and effects of PV-PAPs in China, and provides practical evidence for further large-scale practice of solar PV in China, which could also provide a basis for decision-making of policy makers. Finally, policy recommendations were proposed to help promote the SD of the PV industry in China.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-87
Number of pages15
JournalEnergy for Sustainable Development
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • Solar photovoltaics
  • Poverty alleviation
  • Sustainable development
  • Renewable energy
  • Life Cycle Assessment
  • Net Energy Analysis


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