Life cycle analysis of the embodied carbon emissions from 14 wind turbines with rated powers between 50Kw and 3.4Mw

EA Smoucha, K Fitzpatrick, S Buckingham, OGG Knox

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In order to facilitate increased renewable energy production, there continues to be a global increase in wind turbine installation. When quantifying the carbon offsets from these installations, the production emissions are rarely accounted for. This paper reports on the embodied carbon emissions from the production of 14 wind turbines, rated between 50 kW and 3.4 MW. The embodied emissions were quantified from emission factors specific to each material involved in manufacture, transport to site, and installation of the turbines. The resulting trend was that higher-rated turbines had greater embodied carbon emissions with one 3 MW turbine incorporating 1046 tCO2eq compared to only 58 tCO2eq for an 80 kW turbine. However, the greater electricity output of the turbines offset these emissions more quickly with a recovery in 64 days for a 3.4 MW turbine compared to 354 days for a 100 kW one. This also resulted in lower carbon emissions per kilowatt hour of electricity generated and quicker payback as a percentage of lifetime of 0.9% for a 3.4 MW turbine compared to 4.3% and 4.9% for a 50 and 100 kW turbines, respectively. The findings of this analysis indicate that a preference for installation of higher-rated, over lower-rated, turbines should be favoured for greater environmental benefits.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1000211
JournalJournal of Fundamentals of Renewable Energy and Applications
Issue number4
Early online date15 Jun 2016
Publication statusFirst published - 15 Jun 2016

Bibliographical note



  • Carbon
  • Embodied energy
  • Installation
  • Manufacture
  • Transport
  • Wind turbines


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