First Faculty Advisor
Life-cycle analysis ; Environmental impacts ; Renewable energy
This work is licensed under a CC BY license.
Large-scale wind and solar power plants are being developed at a rapid rate, contributing to not only clean energy, but also waste accumulation and other environmental impacts. The environmental issues related to the decommissioning and disposal of such modules have not been addressed comprehensively due to the long life cycle of these products. This study helps to identify and appraise various impacts of their life cycle processes using the ultimate damage indicators of ecosystem quality, human health, and resources. The environmental impacts of a photovoltaic module (solar) and a wind turbine are compared using the life cycle assessment (LCA) method. The comparison established that the wind turbine has smaller environmental impacts in almost all impact categories assessed. The comparison also showed disposal processes can be a major contributor to environmental impacts, depending on the disposal scenario. The results demonstrate that with knowledge of the environmental impacts over the course of the entire life cycle for both wind turbines and solar panels, a proper disposal method would help avoid large quantities of waste and the potential savings can be quite large. Under the circumstances presented in this study, wind turbine energy proved to be more environmentally friendly compared to solar panel energy due to the contribution of certain flows and processes such as land occupation, materials and resources used, and emissions and toxic chemicals released.