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Life Cycle Environmental Impact of Onshore and Offshore Wind Farms in Texas
Abstract and Figures
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.
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