Life cycle analysis of a wind turbine

One of the most widespread myths about renewable energies in general, and wind power in particular, has always been the emissions associated with the manufacturing and construction of installations.

Also, the Energy Return on Investment (EROI), the ratio between the amount of energy a plant can produce during its lifespan and the amount of energy required to build and operate it, has been a subject of discussion.

These myths were especially prevalent in the early days of modern renewables and perhaps more commonly used against solar energy than wind energy. It is also true that over time they have been diluted by evidence.

However, it’s never a bad idea to revisit some of these concepts, especially when manufacturers put so much effort into detailing and making public the so-called Life Cycle Analysis (LCA).

Recently, Vestas has published the LCA for its V236-15 MW wind turbine, which has orders (including signed, conditional, and preferred) worth more than 14 GW in the coming years.

And the truth is that the figures are remarkable:

  • It takes 13 months to generate all the energy invested in the manufacturing of the turbine and the construction of the wind farm.
  • The Energy Return on Investment is 27.

In the following picture, you can see the main data from the LCA.

The calculation is carried out for a representative wind farm (you can see the considerations in the table above) and also addresses other issues such as recyclability, toxicity, hazardous waste, water pollution…

It’s really worth taking a look at the full report (be aware, it’s 124 pages long), which in Vestas’ case is particularly detailed. If only other industries had LCAs with this level of detail.

For the most curious, I’ll leave links to reports from other manufacturers and other turbine models (although they are not always easy to find):

Sergio Fdez Munguía,