Change search
ReferencesLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link
A review of life cycle assessments on wind energy systems
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Earth Sciences, Department of Earth Sciences, Global Energy Systems. (Global Energy Systems)
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Earth Sciences, Department of Earth Sciences, Global Energy Systems. (Global Energy Systems)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-6379-7104
Gotland University, Department of Culture, Energy and Environment.
2012 (English)In: The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment, ISSN 0948-3349, E-ISSN 1614-7502, Vol. 17, no 6, 729-742 p.Article, review/survey (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]


Several life cycle assessments (LCA) of wind energy published in recent years are reviewed to identify methodological differences and underlying assumptions.


A full comparative analysis of 12 studies were undertaken (10 peer-reviewed papers, 1 conference paper, 1 industry report) regarding six fundamental factors (methods used, energy use accounting, quantification of energy production, energy performance and primary energy,  natural resources, and recycling). Each factor is discussed in detail to highlight strengths and shortcomings of various approaches.


Several potential issues are found concerning the way LCA methods are used for assessing energy performance and environmental impact of wind energy, as well as dealing with natural resource use and depletion. The potential to evaluate natural resource use and depletion impacts from wind energy appears to be poorly exploited or elaborated on in the reviewed studies. Estimations of energy performance and environmental impacts are critically analyzed and found to differ significantly.

Conclusions and recommendations

A continued discussion and development of LCA methodology for wind energy and other energy resources are encouraged. Efforts should be made to standardize methods and calculations. Inconsistent use of terminology and concepts among the analyzed studies are found and should be remedied. Different methods are generally used and the results are presented in diverse ways, making it hard to compare studies with each other, but also with other renewable energy sources.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. Vol. 17, no 6, 729-742 p.
Keyword [en]
life cycle assessment, wind energy, wind power, natural resource use, primary energy conversion, energy accounting
National Category
Energy Systems Environmental Management Civil Engineering Environmental Analysis and Construction Information Technology Environmental Sciences Geosciences, Multidisciplinary
Research subject
Physics with specialization in Global Energy Resources
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-168922DOI: 10.1007/s11367-012-0397-8ISI: 000304879800008OAI: diva2:504156
StandUp for Energy
Available from: 2012-02-20 Created: 2012-02-19 Last updated: 2016-08-26Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Natural resources and sustainable energy: Growth rates and resource flows for low-carbon systems
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Natural resources and sustainable energy: Growth rates and resource flows for low-carbon systems
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Large-scale deployment of low-carbon energy technologies is important for counteracting anthropogenic climate change and achieving universal energy access. This thesis explores potential growth rates of technologies necessary to reach a more sustainable global energy system, the material and energy flows required to commission these technologies, and potential future availability of the required resources.

These issues are investigated in five papers. Potential future growth rates of wind energy and solar photovoltaics, and the associated material requirements are explored, taking the expected service life of these technologies into account. Methodology for assessing net energy return and natural resource use for wind energy systems are analyzed. Potential future availability of lithium and phosphate rock are also investigated.

Estimates of energy and materials required for technologies such as wind energy and photovoltaics vary, and depend on the assumptions made and methods used. Still, it is clear that commissioning of low-carbon technologies on the scale required to reach and sustain a low-carbon energy system in coming decades requires significant quantities of both bulk materials and scarcer resources. For some technologies, such as thin film solar cells and electric vehicles with lithium-ion batteries, availability of materials could become an issue for potential growth rates. Future phosphate rock production could become highly dependent on few countries, and potential political, social and environmental aspects of this should be investigated in more detail.

Material and energy flows should be considered when analyzing growth rates of low-carbon technologies. Their estimated service life can indicate sustainable growth rates of technologies, as well as when materials are available for end-of-life recycling. Resource constrained growth curve models can be used to explore future production of natural resources. A higher disaggregation of these models can enable more detailed analysis of potential constraints. This thesis contributes to the discussion on how to create a more sustainable global energy system, but the methods to assess current and future energy and material flows, and availability of natural resources, should be further developed in the future.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2016. 49 p.
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and Technology, ISSN 1651-6214 ; 1414
low-carbon technology, renewable energy, energy transitions, critical materials, energy metals, material flows, net energy, EROI, life cycle assessment, LCA, growth curves, curve fitting, resource depletion
National Category
Energy Systems Other Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Natural Resources and Sustainable Development
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-301930 (URN)978-91-554-9671-5 (ISBN)
Public defence
2016-10-14, Hambergsalen, Geocentrum, Villavägen 16, Uppsala, 13:15 (English)
Available from: 2016-09-22 Created: 2016-08-25 Last updated: 2016-10-11

Open Access in DiVA

fulltext(360 kB)913 downloads
File information
File name FULLTEXT02.pdfFile size 360 kBChecksum SHA-512
Type fulltextMimetype application/pdf

Other links

Publisher's full text

Search in DiVA

By author/editor
Davidsson, SimonHöök, Mikael
By organisation
Global Energy Systems
In the same journal
The International Journal of Life Cycle Assessment
Energy SystemsEnvironmental ManagementCivil EngineeringEnvironmental Analysis and Construction Information TechnologyEnvironmental SciencesGeosciences, Multidisciplinary

Search outside of DiVA

GoogleGoogle Scholar
Total: 1036 downloads
The number of downloads is the sum of all downloads of full texts. It may include eg previous versions that are now no longer available

Altmetric score

Total: 1101 hits
ReferencesLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link