The last decade witnessed a quantum increase in wind energy contribution to the U.S. renewable electricity mix. Although the overall environmental impact of wind energy is miniscule in comparison to fossil-fuel energy, the early stages of the wind energy life cycle have potential for a higher environmental impact. This study attempts to quantify the relative contribution of individual stages toward life cycle impacts by conducting a life cycle assessment with SimaPro® and the Impact 2002+ impact assessment method. A comparative analysis of individual stages at three locations, onshore, shallow-water, and deep-water, in Texas and the gulf coast indicates that material extraction/processing would be the dominant stage with an average impact contribution of 72% for onshore, 58% for shallow-water, and 82% for deep-water across the 15 midpoint impact categories. The payback times for CO2 and energy consumption range from 6 to 14 and 6 to 17 months, respectively, with onshore farms having shorter payback times. The greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) were in the range of 5–7 gCO2eq/kWh for the onshore location, 6–9 CO2eq/kWh for the shallow-water location, and 6–8 CO2eq/kWh for the deep-water location. A sensitivity analysis of the material extraction/processing stage to the electricity sourcing stage indicates that replacement of lignite coal with natural gas or wind would lead to marginal improvements in midpoint impact categories.
Life Cycle Environmental Impact of Onshore and Offshore Wind Farms in Texas
Chipindula, J.; Botlaguduru, V.; Du, H.; Kommalapati, R.; Huque, Z. (2018). Life Cycle Environmental Impact of Onshore and Offshore Wind Farms in Texas. Sustainability, 10.