Portrait of Prof. Vasilis Fthenakis  

Vasilis Fthenakis


626d S.W. Mudd
Mail Code 4721

Tel(212) 854-8885

Research Interests

Renewable energy systems integration, solar forecasting, life cycle analysis, solar water desalination, photovoltaics recycling, mining/mineral systems analysis.

Vasilis Fthenakis develops methodologies, predictive models, and control technologies for resolving problems at the interface of energy and the environment. Recent investigations include variable renewable energy systems integration and life cycle sustainability analysis. His pioneering work on environmental impact and resource availability of photovoltaic (PV) technologies has helped resolve concerns for rapid growth commercialization.

Fthenakis joined Columbia in 2006, in a joint appointment with Brookhaven National Laboratory, and founded the Center for Life Cycle Analysis (CLCA), with the objective to guide technology and energy policy decisions with holistic and well balanced descriptions of the sustainability profiles of energy systems.

His research on the life-cycles of renewable, nuclear, and coal technologies has been a crucial contribution to today's key debates about energy and climate change and has put several energy technologies on a comparable basis with solar.  He created an International Energy Agency Task on PV Sustainability that brought together LCA analysts from fourteen countries and produced a number of consensus documents guiding credible LCA studies worldwide. Recently he co-founded the Global Clean Water Desalination Alliance (GCWDA) and was elected in its Board of Directors. The GCWDA was launched during the COP21 Paris and was also represented in COP22 Marrakesh. The CLCA team is currently leading GCWDA efforts to integrate PV with desalination making it both clean and affordable.

Fthenakis has a BS in Chemistry from the National University of Athens, a MS in Chemical Engineering from Columbia University, and a PhD in Fluid Dynamics and Atmospheric Science from New York University. He is the author of three books and 400 scientific articles and reports. He serves on the Editorial Boards of Progress in Photovoltaics, Energy Technology, and the Journal of Loss Prevention.  Early in his career he served as a safety and environmental consultant for major oil and chemical companies and as an expert on investigating major chemical accidents in the U.S.  


  • Founding  Director of the Center for Life Cycle Analysis, Columbia University, 2006- 
  • Senior Research Scientist and Adjunct Professor, Columbia University, 2006-
  • Senior Scientist emeritus,  Senior Scientist with tenure,  Chemical Engineer, Research Engineer Brookhaven National Laboratory,  1980-2017 


  • American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE)
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE )


  • Fellow American Institute of Chemical Engineers, 2002
  • Fellow International Energy Foundation, 2004
  • Department of Energy, Certificate of Appreciation, 2006
  • Board of Directors, Global Clean Water Desalination  Alliance, 2016


  • Nikolakakis T., Fthenakis V., The Value of Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) for Enhancing Variable Renewable Energy (VRE) Integration: A New Unit Commitment and Economic Dispatch Model for Ireland,  Energy Technology, in press.
  • Fthenakis V., Atia A., Morin O., Bkayrat R., and Sinha P., New Prospects for PV Powered Water Desalination Plants, Progress in Photovoltaics: Research and Applications, 4, 543–550, 2016.
  • Leccisi E., Raugei M., Fthenakis V., The energy and environmental performance of ground-mounted photovoltaic systems – a timely update, Energies,  9(8), 622, 2016.
  • van Haaren, R., Morjaria, M., Fthenakis, V. An Energy Storage Algorithm for Ramp Rate Control of Utility Scale PV Plants, Energy, 91, 894-902, 2015.
  • Van Haaren, R., Morjaria, M., Fthenakis, V. (2012). Empirical Assessment of Short-term Variability from Utility Scale Solar-PV Plants, Progress in Photovoltaics Research and Applications, 22(5), 548-559, 2014.
  • Choi J-K and Fthenakis V., Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaic Recycling Planning: Macro and Micro Perspectives, Journal for Cleaner Production, 66 (1), pp, 443-449, 2014.
  • Fthenakis V. Mason J. and Zweibel K., The Technical, Geographical and Economic Feasibility for Solar Energy to Supply the Energy Needs of the United States, Energy Policy, 37, 387-399, 2009.
  • Fthenakis V.M. and Kim H.C., Life-cycle of water in U.S. electricity generation, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 14, 2039–2048, 2010.
  • Fthenakis V.M., and Kim H.C, Land Use and Electricity Generation: A Life Cycle Analysis, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 13, 1465-1474, 2009
  • Fthenakis V.M., Kim H.C. and Alsema E., Emissions from photovoltaic life cycles, Environ. Sci. Technol., 42 (6), 2168–2174, 2008