Prospective LCA Model for 1-GW Scale PEC Hydrogen Plant


Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL)

Capability Expert

Hanna Breunig


Computational Tools and Modeling

Node Readiness Category

2: High-Temperature Electrolysis (HTE)
2: Low-Temperature Electrolysis (LTE)
1: Photoelectrochemical (PEC)
3: Solar Thermochemical (STCH)


Lifecycle assessment model for calculating energy, land and water impacts of a 1-GW scale photoelectrochemical H2 plant. There are variations with different device and balance of plant structures. Optical concentration, new device designs, and processing methods can be introduced into the framework to evaluate impacts. The model can be updated with improved data and also used as a foundation for a techno-economic analysis.

Capability Bounds‎

Bounds are construction, operation and end-of-life retirement of the plant, with full detail on PEC device fabrication embedded.

Unique Aspects‎

This is a flexible model that is particularly valuable for assessing energy impacts such as energy returned on energy invested and sensitivities to assumptions about the plant's construction and operation. It is directly useful for planning R&D programs.


For PEC, the spreadsheet is readily available. Expertise is available for development of derived and expanded models. Some models for electrolysis already completed.


This capability enables resource impacts of various implementations of different hydrogen-generation technologies at various scales to be evaluated and compared.


Schematic of layout of panels in PEC hydrogen GW-scale plant.


Life-cycle net energy assessment of large-scale hydrogen production via photo-electrochemical water-splitting Roger Sathre, Corinne D. Scown, William R. Morrow III, John C. Stevens, Ian D. Sharp, Joel W. Ager, Karl Walczak, Frances A. Houle and Jeffery B. Greenblatt, Energy Environ. Sci. 7, 3264-3278 (2014).

Opportunities to improve the net energy performance of photoelectrochemical water-splitting technology, Roger Sathre, Jeffery Greenblatt, Karl Walczak, Ian Sharp, John Stevens, Joel Ager, Frances Houle, Energy & Environmental Science, 9, 803 – 819 (2016).