IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Life cycle assessment of onshore and offshore wind energy-from theory to application


  • Bonou, Alexandra
  • Laurent, Alexis
  • Olsen, Stig I.


This study aims to assess the environmental impacts related to the provision of 1kWh to the grid from wind power in Europe and to suggest how life cycle assessment can inform technology development and system planning. Four representative power plants onshore (with 2.3 and 3.2MW turbines) and offshore (4.0 and 6.0MW turbines) with 2015 state-of-the-art technology data provided by Siemens Wind Power were assessed. The energy payback time was found to be less than 1year for all technologies. The emissions of greenhouse gases amounted to less than 7g CO2-eq/kWh for onshore and 11g CO2-eq/kWh for offshore. Climate change impacts were found to be a good indicator for overall hotspot identification however attention should also be drawn to human toxicity and impacts from respiratory inorganics. The overall higher impact of offshore plants, compared to onshore ones, is mainly due to larger high-impact material requirements for capital infrastructure. In both markets the bigger turbines with more advanced direct drive generator technology is shown to perform better than the smaller geared ones. Capital infrastructure is the most impactful life cycle stage across impacts. It accounts for more than 79% and 70% of climate change impacts onshore and offshore respectively. The end-of-life treatment could lead to significant savings due to recycling, ca. 20–30% for climate change. In the manufacturing stage the impacts due to operations at the case company do not exceed 1% of the total life cycle impacts. This finding highlights the shared responsibility across multiple stakeholders and calls for collaborative efforts for comprehensive environmental management across organizations in the value chain. Real life examples are given in order to showcase how LCA results can inform decisions, e.g. for concept and product development and supply chain management. On a systems level the results can be used by energy planners when comparing with alternative energy sources.

Suggested Citation

  • Bonou, Alexandra & Laurent, Alexis & Olsen, Stig I., 2016. "Life cycle assessment of onshore and offshore wind energy-from theory to application," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 180(C), pages 327-337.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:appene:v:180:y:2016:i:c:p:327-337
    DOI: 10.1016/j.apenergy.2016.07.058

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Timilsina, Govinda R. & Cornelis van Kooten, G. & Narbel, Patrick A., 2013. "Global wind power development: Economics and policies," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 642-652.
    2. Cucchiella, Federica & D’Adamo, Idiano & Lenny Koh, S.C. & Rosa, Paolo, 2015. "Recycling of WEEEs: An economic assessment of present and future e-waste streams," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 263-272.
    3. Foidart, F. & Oliver-Solá, J. & Gasol, C.M. & Gabarrell, X. & Rieradevall, J., 2010. "How important are current energy mix choices on future sustainability? Case study: Belgium and Spain--projections towards 2020-2030," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(9), pages 5028-5037, September.
    4. Cherubini, Francesco & Ulgiati, Sergio, 2010. "Crop residues as raw materials for biorefinery systems - A LCA case study," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 87(1), pages 47-57, January.
    5. Lenzen, Manfred & Wachsmann, Ulrike, 2004. "Wind turbines in Brazil and Germany: an example of geographical variability in life-cycle assessment," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 77(2), pages 119-130, February.
    6. Arvesen, Anders & Hertwich, Edgar G., 2012. "Assessing the life cycle environmental impacts of wind power: A review of present knowledge and research needs," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 16(8), pages 5994-6006.
    7. Lenzen, Manfred & Munksgaard, Jesper, 2002. "Energy and CO2 life-cycle analyses of wind turbines—review and applications," Renewable Energy, Elsevier, vol. 26(3), pages 339-362.
    8. Whittaker, Carly & Borrion, Aiduan Li & Newnes, Linda & McManus, Marcelle, 2014. "The renewable energy directive and cereal residues," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 122(C), pages 207-215.
    9. Zhao, Haoran & Wu, Qiuwei & Hu, Shuju & Xu, Honghua & Rasmussen, Claus Nygaard, 2015. "Review of energy storage system for wind power integration support," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 137(C), pages 545-553.
    10. Shen, Zhiwei & Ritter, Matthias, 2016. "Forecasting volatility of wind power production," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 176(C), pages 295-308.
    11. Hou, Guofu & Sun, Honghang & Jiang, Ziying & Pan, Ziqiang & Wang, Yibo & Zhang, Xiaodan & Zhao, Ying & Yao, Qiang, 2016. "Life cycle assessment of grid-connected photovoltaic power generation from crystalline silicon solar modules in China," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 164(C), pages 882-890.
    12. Xue, Bing & Ma, Zhixiao & Geng, Yong & Heck, Peter & Ren, Wanxia & Tobias, Mario & Maas, Achim & Jiang, Ping & Puppim de Oliveira, Jose A. & Fujita, Tsuyoshi, 2015. "A life cycle co-benefits assessment of wind power in China," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 338-346.
    13. Tremeac, Brice & Meunier, Francis, 2009. "Life cycle analysis of 4.5Â MW and 250Â W wind turbines," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 13(8), pages 2104-2110, October.
    14. Guezuraga, Begoña & Zauner, Rudolf & Pölz, Werner, 2012. "Life cycle assessment of two different 2 MW class wind turbines," Renewable Energy, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 37-44.
    15. Exizidis, Lazaros & Kazempour, S. Jalal & Pinson, Pierre & de Greve, Zacharie & Vallée, François, 2016. "Sharing wind power forecasts in electricity markets: A numerical analysis," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 176(C), pages 65-73.
    16. Gadad, Sanjeev & Deka, Paresh Chandra, 2016. "Offshore wind power resource assessment using Oceansat-2 scatterometer data at a regional scale," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 176(C), pages 157-170.
    17. De Jonghe, Cedric & Delarue, Erik & Belmans, Ronnie & D'haeseleer, William, 2011. "Determining optimal electricity technology mix with high level of wind power penetration," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 88(6), pages 2231-2238, June.
    18. Collet, Pierre & Hélias, Arnaud & Lardon, Laurent & Steyer, Jean-Philippe & Bernard, Olivier, 2015. "Recommendations for Life Cycle Assessment of algal fuels," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 154(C), pages 1089-1102.
    19. Rubio Rodríguez, M.A. & Feitó Cespón, M. & De Ruyck, J. & Ocaña Guevara, V.S. & Verma, V.K., 2013. "Life cycle modeling of energy matrix scenarios, Belgian power and partial heat mixes as case study," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 107(C), pages 329-337.
    20. Evans, Annette & Strezov, Vladimir & Evans, Tim J., 2009. "Assessment of sustainability indicators for renewable energy technologies," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 13(5), pages 1082-1088, June.
    21. Bilgili, Mehmet & Yasar, Abdulkadir & Simsek, Erdogan, 2011. "Offshore wind power development in Europe and its comparison with onshore counterpart," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 905-915, February.
    22. Thygesen, Janne & Agarwal, Abhishek, 2014. "Key criteria for sustainable wind energy planning—lessons from an institutional perspective on the impact assessment literature," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 1012-1023.
    23. Hamelin, Lorie & Naroznova, Irina & Wenzel, Henrik, 2014. "Environmental consequences of different carbon alternatives for increased manure-based biogas," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 114(C), pages 774-782.
    24. Nugent, Daniel & Sovacool, Benjamin K., 2014. "Assessing the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions from solar PV and wind energy: A critical meta-survey," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 65(C), pages 229-244.
    25. Martínez, E. & Sanz, F. & Pellegrini, S. & Jiménez, E. & Blanco, J., 2009. "Life cycle assessment of a multi-megawatt wind turbine," Renewable Energy, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 667-673.
    26. Esteban, Miguel & Leary, David, 2012. "Current developments and future prospects of offshore wind and ocean energy," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 90(1), pages 128-136.
    27. Moura, Pedro S. & de Almeida, Aníbal T., 2010. "The role of demand-side management in the grid integration of wind power," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 87(8), pages 2581-2588, August.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:appene:v:211:y:2018:i:c:p:764-773 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:eee:appene:v:204:y:2017:i:c:p:1101-1114 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. repec:eee:appene:v:228:y:2018:i:c:p:999-1008 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. repec:gam:jsusta:v:10:y:2018:i:6:p:2022-:d:152596 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. repec:eee:appene:v:209:y:2018:i:c:p:127-139 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Niklas Andersen & Ola Eriksson & Karl Hillman & Marita Wallhagen, 2016. "Wind Turbines’ End-of-Life: Quantification and Characterisation of Future Waste Materials on a National Level," Energies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 9(12), pages 1-24, November.
    7. repec:eee:appene:v:228:y:2018:i:c:p:1822-1836 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. repec:eee:energy:v:152:y:2018:i:c:p:601-612 is not listed on IDEAS


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:appene:v:180:y:2016:i:c:p:327-337. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.