Environmental Impacts of Renewable Energy: An Overview of Life Cycle Results
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Selected non-renewable and renewable energy processes from the ecoinvent 2.2 life cycle inventory database were analysed using basic contribution analysis, geometric series expansion, and structural path analysis. The hierarchical perspective of the ReCiPe impact assessment method was applied. The sources studied included biomass, wind, solar photovoltaic, hydropower, natural gas combined cycle and hard coal. Several technologies within each energy source were studied for comparison purposes. The processes were compared based on material consumption, land use and emissions for the production of 1 EJ (278 TWh). Results indicate that all of the renewable energy sources studied had a significantly lower impact than the non-renewable sources chosen. With the exception of bioenergies and pumped reservoir hydropower, technologies for the same energy source showed similar behaviour in the analyses performed.The findings from this study confirm previous work stating the environmental and human health superiority of renewable energy technologies over fossil fuel energy.