Comparative Life Cycle Assessment of tidal stream turbine blades
Keywords:Tidal turbine blades, Life cycle assessment, Enviromental impact assessment, Carbon footprint
Renewable energy allows electricity generation with lower environmental and resource impact than generation from fossil fuels. However, the manufacture, use and ultimate disposal of the equipment used to capture this energy has an environmental impact, which should be minimised. Tidal turbine blades are currently primarily manufactured from glass-fibre reinforced polymers. Such blades cannot be recycled at the end of their life, and are disposed of in landfill or by incineration. As the tidal energy industry grows, the volume of non-recyclable waste is a potential problem. Here we consider the environmental impact of ten combinations of material and disposal method for tidal stream turbine blades, including recyclable options. Our findings suggest that glass fibre blades have greenhouse gas emissions of around 15,500 kgCO2e for the scope considered, and a significant environmental impact in all impact categories, which would be increased by changing to carbon fibre (99% mean increase from glass fibre across impact categories) or steel (134% mean increase from glass fibre across impact categories) blades, but that composite materials using flax fibre and recyclable resin may have lower impact (26% mean decrease from glass fibre across impact categories), provided they are treated correctly after use. These materials may also offer the potential for lower cost blades in future.
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Copyright (c) 2022 Stuart Robert John Walker, Philipp R Thies, Lars Johanning
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