Wind energy has often been heralded as one of the saviours of planet Earth, as well as being economically beneficial and efficient: it is the oft-unmentioned winning-point for renewable technologies that they are not only environmentally friendly, but also cheaper to run and invest than traditional energy generation methods.
Adding insult to injury, therefore, for those who dismiss renewable energy — and wind energy in particular — as an effective means of moving forward, is new research published in the International Journal of Sustainable Manufacturing which has determined that a wind turbine with an estimated working life of 20 years will offer a net benefit within five to eight months of being brought online.
US researchers Karl R. Haapala and Preedanood Prempreeda from the School of Mechanical, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering, at Oregon State University, conducted an environmental lifecycle assessment of two 2 MW wind turbines and found that the cumulative energy payback will take place within a year of being turned on.
A life cycle assessment like the one conducted in this research looks at the net environmental impact across the whole spectrum of construction, installation, and running; raw materials, transport, manufacturing, installation, ongoing maintenance, recycling, and disposal at the end of its life.
The final analysis showed that the largest environmental impacts were caused by materials production and the manufacturing process, but this impact is paid back within 6 months. Even in the worst-case-scenarios, it is expected a wind turbine will pay for its environmental impact within the first year of its use.
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