Field of research Energy
There are currently just over 30 large wind turbines in Switzerland and as part of the Energy Strategy 2050, wind energy is set to greatly expand in the upcoming years. Wind turbines are designed for a service life of around 20 years, after which the plants are dismantled and disposed of. There are different opinions on the extent to which the turbine foundations should be dismantled. The environmental effects of different dismantling options were compared using life cycle assessments.
The opportunities for photovoltaic (PV) solar energy conversion to support the requested transition for the realization of the Energy Strategy 2050 are widely recognized. However, if PV is to make a significant contribution to satisfy global energy requirements, issues of sustainability need to be addressed with increased urgency. This project aims at assessing the sustainability impacts of the devices and (potential) products being developed within the PV2050 projects.
The sustainability impact assessment will cover not only purely environmental aspects (for example CO2 equivalent, energy yield), but also socio-economic impacts (for example influence on employment rate, acceptance, demand), as well as pricing and market deployment of solar electricity, and the impact on the grid. We expect that, in case of success in the technology developments, the next generation photovoltaic solutions proposed, will have a significant impact on penetration of PV in the Swiss grid, which will require various measures to guarantee a safe, clean but still affordable electricity supply.
Current life cycle assessments are essential for the scientific and comprehensive comparison of the environmental impact of various power generation technologies. Low environmental impact (for example carbon footprint per kWh) is an important argument for the expansion of wind energy in Switzerland. However, the available life cycle inventory data for Swiss wind energy are partly outdated and not specifically adapted to the conditions in Switzerland. The aim of the project was to develop a comprehensive life cycle inventory database for Swiss wind energy and to carry out life cycle assessments of electricity from existing and future wind turbines in Switzerland.