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Assessing the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions from solar PV and wind energy: A critical meta-survey

Daniel Nugent and Benjamin K. Sovacool

Energy Policy, 2014, vol. 65, issue C, 229-244

Abstract: This paper critically screens 153 lifecycle studies covering a broad range of wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity generation technologies to identify 41 of the most relevant, recent, rigorous, original, and complete assessments so that the dynamics of their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions profiles can be determined. When viewed in a holistic manner, including initial materials extraction, manufacturing, use and disposal/decommissioning, these 41 studies show that both wind and solar systems are directly tied to and responsible for GHG emissions. They are thus not actually emissions free technologies. Moreover, by spotlighting the lifecycle stages and physical characteristics of these technologies that are most responsible for emissions, improvements can be made to lower their carbon footprint. As such, through in-depth examination of the results of these studies and the variations therein, this article uncovers best practices in wind and solar design and deployment that can better inform climate change mitigation efforts in the electricity sector.

Keywords: Solar photovoltaics (PV); Wind energy; Lifecycle assessment (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2014
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DOI: 10.1016/j.enpol.2013.10.048

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