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Life Cycle Assessment of Modern Wind Power Plants

TitleLife Cycle Assessment of Modern Wind Power Plants
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2010
AuthorsHapke, H. Max, K. R. Haapala, Z. Wu, and T. K. A. Brekken
Conference NameASME 2010 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering ConferenceVolume 6: 15th Design for Manufacturing and the Lifecycle Conference; 7th Symposium on International Design and Design Education
Pagination395 - 403
Date Published08/2010
Conference LocationMontreal, Quebec, Canada

Power generation for the existing electrical grid is largely based on the combustion of fossil fuels. Global concerns have been raised regarding the environmental sustainability of the system due to life cycle impacts, including land losses from fuel extraction and impacts of combustion emissions. An approach to reduce carbon emissions of fossil fuel-based energy employs the conversion of wind energy to electrical energy. The work presented describes modern wind power plants and provides an environmental assessment of a representative wind park from a life cycle perspective. The empirical analysis uses commercially available data, as well as information from an existing wind power plant. The life cycle assessment (LCA) study for a modern wind farm in the northwestern U.S. found that environmental benefits of avoiding typical electricity production greatly outweigh the impacts due to wind turbine construction and maintenance. Effects of component reliability, varying capacity factors, and energy portfolio are explored.