Life Cycle Assessment in the Marine Renewable Energy Sector

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract / Description of output

As renewable energy technologies continue to develop, questions are arising over the environmental impacts associated with the process of converting low-carbon energy sources into electrical power. In order to make informed decisions for future developments of the energy system, and to confidently evaluate environmental impacts for market trading, it is necessary to develop a detailed understanding of the indirect life cycle impacts of renewable power generation from the manufacture, operation and decommissioning of generators and network infrastructure.

The Pelamis is emerging as a leading wave energy converter, with a new commercial-scale site currently under development off the coast of Shetland in the UK. This research applies process-based Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to the Pelamis to systematically analyse resource use and emissions to the environment at each stage of its life cycle. While LCA has already been applied to a range of energy technologies and networks [1-5], to date very few studies have been carried out in the marine renewables sector, and even fewer of these consider the broad range of environmental impacts tending to only concentrate on carbon emissions and embodied energy [6-9].

Further to presenting the new analysis, this work will investigate the effect of practitioner decisions on LCA results. In 2007 a carbon and energy audit was carried out on the Pelamis P1 device [7]. This found that the carbon intensity was 23 g CO2/kWh, comparable to a large wind turbine. Early results from the new full LCA suggest that it may produce a higher figure. Such variations in results could be due to variations in practitioner assumptions, methodology and primary data sources. This research will highlight the assumptions that have the most significant impact on the results, and will suggest best practice guidelines for future analyses of renewable generators.

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Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLCA report - Instruments for Green Futures Markets
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings from the LCA XI International Conference, October 4-6, 2011, Chicago, IL, United States
PublisherAmerican Center for Life Cycle Assessment
ISBN (Electronic)978-0-9882145-0-7
Publication statusPublished - 5 Oct 2011
EventLCA XI - Illinois, Chicago, United States
Duration: 4 Oct 20116 Oct 2011


ConferenceLCA XI
Country/TerritoryUnited States


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  • LCA XI

    Camilla Thomson (Speaker)

    4 Oct 20116 Oct 2011

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in conference

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