A review of life cycle assessments on wind energy systems
- 2k Downloads
Several life cycle assessments (LCAs) of wind energy published in recent years are reviewed to identify methodological differences and underlying assumptions.
A full comparative analysis of 12 studies were undertaken (ten peer-reviewed papers, one conference paper, and one industry report) regarding six fundamental factors (methods used, energy use accounting, quantification of energy production, energy performance and primary energy, natural resources, and recycling). Each factor is discussed in detail to highlight strengths and shortcomings of various approaches.
Several potential issues are found concerning the way LCA methods are used for assessing energy performance and environmental impact of wind energy, as well as dealing with natural resource use and depletion. The potential to evaluate natural resource use and depletion impacts from wind energy appears to be poorly exploited or elaborated on in the reviewed studies. Estimations of energy performance and environmental impacts are critically analyzed and found to differ significantly.
Conclusions and recommendations
A continued discussion and development of LCA methodology for wind energy and other energy resources are encouraged. Efforts should be made to standardize methods and calculations. Inconsistent use of terminology and concepts among the analyzed studies are found and should be remedied. Different methods are generally used and the results are presented in diverse ways, making it difficult to compare studies with each other, but also with other renewable energy sources.
KeywordsEnergy accounting Life cycle assessment Natural resource use Primary energy conversion Wind energy Wind power
Energy payback time
Energy return on (energy) investment
Life cycle assessment
Life cycle inventory
Life cycle impact assessment
Life cycle sustainability analysis
Process chain analysis
Primary energy return on (energy) investment
Primary energy payback time
Rare earth elements
We would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments. Ehri Gbegbaje-Das from PE International and Peter Garrett and Klaus Rønde from VESTAS have our gratitude for providing assistance and clarifications regarding the Vestas LCA study. This study has been supported by the STandUP for energy collaboration initiative.
- Atherton J (2006) Declaration by the metals industry on recycling principles. Int J Life Cycle Assess 12(1):59–60Google Scholar
- Baumann H, Tillman AM (2004) The Hitch Hiker’s guide to LCA. Studentlitteratur, LundGoogle Scholar
- Biggs S (2011) Rare earths leave toxic trail to Toyota Prius, Vestas turbines. Bloomberg. Web article. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-01-05/china-rare-earths-leave-toxic-trail-to-toyota-prius-vestas-wind-turbines.html. Accessed 18 May 2011
- British Geological Survey (2010) Rare earth elements—mineral profile. June 2010. See also: http://www.mineralsUK.com
- ESTP (2009) Steel – a key partner in the European low‐carbon economy of tomorrow. European Steel Technology Platform (ESTP)Google Scholar
- Guinée JB (2001) Life cycle assessment—an operational guide to the ISO-standards. Center of Environmental Science—Leiden University (CML)Google Scholar
- Haxel GB, Hedrick JB, Orris GJ (2002) Rare earth elements—critical resources for high technology. US Geological Survey Fact Sheet 087-02. See also: http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2002/fs087-02
- Hendrickson C et al (1997) Comparing two life cycle assessment approaches: a process model- vs. economic input–output-based approach. IEEE Int Symp Electron Environ, San Francisco, CAGoogle Scholar
- Höök M, Li J, Johansson K, Snowden S (2012) Growth rates of global energy systems and future outlooks. Nat Resour Res. doi: 10.1007/s11053-011-9162-0
- IPCC (2011) Full report. In: Edenhofer O, Pichs-Madruga R, Sokona Y, Seyboth K, Matschoss P, Kadner S, Zwickel T, Eickemeier P, Hansen G, Schlömer S, von Stechow C (eds) IPCC special report on renewable energy sources and climate change mitigation. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
- Lee YM, Tzeng, YE, Su CL (2006) Life cycle assessment of wind power utilization in Taiwan. The 7th International Conference on Eco Balance, November 14–16, 2006, Tsukuba, JapanGoogle Scholar
- Long KR, Van Gosen BS, Foley NK, Cordier D (2010) The principal rare earth elements deposits of the United States—a summary of domestic deposits and a global perspective. US Geological Survey Scientific Investigations, report 2010–5220, 96 p. See also: http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2010/5220/
- Martinez E et al. (2010) Environmental impact of modern wind power under LCA methodology. In: Muyeen SM (ed) Wind power. ISBN: 978-953-7619-81-7, InTech. Available from: http://www.intechopen.com/articles/show/title/environmental-impact-of-modern-wind-power-under-lca-methodology
- Moss RL, Tzimas E, Kara H, Willis P, Kooroshy J (2011) Critical metals in strategic energy technologies—assessing rare metals as supply-chain bottlenecks in low-carbon energy technologies. Joint Research Centre of the European Commission scientific and technical report. See also: http://www.jrc.ec.europa.eu/
- Pasqualetti MJ, Gipe P, Righter RW (2002) Wind power in view: energy landscapes in a crowded world. Academic, New York, p 234Google Scholar
- Renewables International (2011) Neodymium a bone of contention in wind turbines. News article from 25 May 2011. See also: http://www.renewablesinternational.net/neodymium-a-bone-of-contention-in-wind-turbines/150/435/31015/
- Tse PK (2011) China’s rare-earth industry. US Geological Survey Open-File Report 2011–1042, 11 p. See also: http://files.eesi.org/usgs_china_030011.pdf
- US Department of Energy (2010) Critical materials strategy. Report the role of rare earth metals and other materials in the clean energy economy. December 2010, see also: http://energy.gov/
- Vestas (2011) Life cycle assessment of electricity production from a Vestas V112 turbine wind plant, final report. PE North West Europe ApS. See also: http://www.vestas.com/Admin/Public/DWSDownload.aspx?File=%2fFiles%2fFiler%2fEN%2fSustainability%2fLCA%2fLCA_V112_Study_Report_2011.pdf
- WWEA (2010) World wind energy report 2009. World Wind Energy Association, BonnGoogle Scholar