07 Jun 2022
07 Jun 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal WES.

The eco-conscious wind turbine: bringing societal value to design

Helena Canet, Adrien Guilloré, and Carlo L. Bottasso Helena Canet et al.
  • Wind Energy Institute, Technical University of Munich, 85748 Garching bei München, Germany

Abstract. Wind turbines are designed to minimize the cost of energy, a metric aimed at making wind competitive with other energy-producing technologies. However, now that wind energy is competitive, how can we increase its value for society? And how much would a societal gain cost other stakeholders, such as investors or consumers? This paper tries to answer these questions from the perspective of wind turbine design.

Although wind turbines produce green renewable energy, they also generate various impacts on the environment, as all human endeavours. Among all impacts, the present work adopts the environmental effects produced by a turbine over its entire life cycle, expressed in terms of CO2-equivalent emissions. A new approach to design is proposed, whereby Pareto fronts of solutions are computed to define optimal trade-offs between economic and
environmental goals.

The new proposed methodology is demonstrated on the redesign of a baseline 3 MW wind turbine at two locations in Germany, differing for typical wind speeds. Among other results, it is found that, in these conditions, a 1 % increase in the cost of energy can buy about a 5 % decrease in the environmental impact of the turbine. Additionally, it is also observed that in the specific case of Germany, very low specific-power designs are typically favored, because they produce more energy at low wind speeds, where both the economic and environmental values of wind are higher.

Although limited to the sole optimization of wind-generating assets at two different locations, these results suggest the existence of new opportunities for the future development of wind energy where, by shifting the focus slightly away from a purely cost-driven short-term perspective, longer-term benefits for the environment (and, in turn, for society) may be obtained.

Helena Canet et al.

Status: open (until 19 Jul 2022)

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Helena Canet et al.

Helena Canet et al.


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Short summary
We propose a new approach to design that aims at optimal trade-offs between economic and environmental goals. New environmental metrics are defined, which quantify impacts in terms of CO2-equivalent emissions produced by the turbine over its entire life cycle. For some typical onshore installations in Germany, results indicate that a 1 % increase in the cost of energy can buy about a 5 % decrease in environmental impacts, i.e. a small loss for the individual can lead to larger gains for society.