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Comparison of Life Cycle Carbon Dioxide Emissions and Embodied Energy in Four Renewable Electricity Generation Technologies in New Zealand

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journal contribution
posted on 2009-08-15, 00:00 authored by Bridget M. Rule, Zeb J. Worth, Carol A. Boyle
In order to make the best choice between renewable energy technologies, it is important to be able to compare these technologies on the basis of their sustainability, which may include a variety of social, environmental, and economic indicators. This study examined the comparative sustainability of four renewable electricity technologies in terms of their life cycle CO2 emissions and embodied energy, from construction to decommissioning and including maintenance (periodic component replacement plus machinery use), using life cycle analysis. The models developed were based on case studies of power plants in New Zealand, comprising geothermal, large-scale hydroelectric, tidal (a proposed scheme), and wind-farm electricity generation. The comparative results showed that tidal power generation was associated with 1.8 g of CO2/kWh, wind with 3.0 g of CO2/kWh, hydroelectric with 4.6 g of CO2/kWh, and geothermal with 5.6 g of CO2/kWh (not including fugitive emissions), and that tidal power generation was associated with 42.3 kJ/kWh, wind with 70.2 kJ/kWh, hydroelectric with 55.0 kJ/kWh, and geothermal with 94.6 kJ/kWh. Other environmental indicators, as well as social and economic indicators, should be applied to gain a complete picture of the technologies studied.

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