, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 271-281
Date: 15 Mar 2007

Net Energy Payback and CO2 Emissions from Three Midwestern Wind Farms: An Update

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This paper updates a life-cycle net energy analysis and carbon dioxide emissions analysis of three Midwestern utility-scale wind systems. Both the Energy Payback Ratio (EPR) and CO2 analysis results provide useful data for policy discussions regarding an efficient and low-carbon energy mix. The EPR is the amount of electrical energy produced for the lifetime of the power plant divided by the total amount of energy required to procure and transport the materials, build, operate, and decommission the power plants. The CO2 analysis for each power plant was calculated from the life-cycle energy input data.

A previous study also analyzed coal and nuclear fission power plants. At the time of that study, two of the three wind systems had less than a full year of generation data to project the life-cycle energy production. This study updates the analysis of three wind systems with an additional four to eight years of operating data.

The EPR for the utility-scale wind systems ranges from a low of 11 for a two-turbine system in Wisconsin to 28 for a 143-turbine system in southwestern Minnesota. The EPR is 11 for coal, 25 for fission with gas centrifuge enriched uranium and 7 for gaseous diffusion enriched uranium. The normalized CO2 emissions, in tonnes of CO2 per GWeh, ranges from 14 to 33 for the wind systems, 974 for coal, and 10 and 34 for nuclear fission using gas centrifuge and gaseous diffusion enriched uranium, respectively.