Researchers in the United States have found wind turbines to be the most efficient in terms of energy return when comparing the energy needed for production and installation and the time it takes to produce it. A wind turbine with a lifetime of 20 years can produce energy in five to eight months.
After conducting an environmental life cycle assessment of a 2 MW wind turbine at a wind farm in the Pacific Northwest region, the researchers published their findings in the International Journal of Sustainable Manufacturing.
Wind turbines provide virtually pollution-free power sources and, if combined with mass storage, are future solutions for sustainable power generation.
"When we produce all forms of energy, we need to invest in natural resources that are related to the environmental impacts and costs that need to be quantified to make the right energy system development decisions," said Karl Hapala of the Oregon State University.
The Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) was conducted to ensure sourcing of critical raw materials, transportation, manufacturing and installation of turbines, and ongoing maintenance through the expected useful maintenance over the next 20 years.
It also included the effects of recycling and disposal of turbine life and end of life.
Hapala and Flempida examined the LCA of 2 MW wind turbines and identified the net environmental impact of production and use when using the device for power production.
They said the final analysis will result in the majority of expected environmental impacts due to material production and manufacturing processes. The time it takes to recover used energy is about 6 months, and in the worst case, the energy usage can be recovered within the lifetime of the turbine within one year.