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Life cycle assessment and feasibility study of small wind power in Thailand

Glassbrook, Keith A., Carr, Adam H., Drosnes, Mark L., Oakley, T. Reade, Kamens, Richard M., Gheewala, Shabbir H.
Energy for sustainable development 2014 v.22 pp. 66-73
economic feasibility, electricity, embodied energy, emissions, feasibility studies, generators (equipment), global warming potential, life cycle assessment, prices, wind power, wind speed, wind turbines, Thailand
The Thai government's renewable energy plan to help increase energy independence and reduce emissions includes a component from wind. Due to Thailand's wind regime, small wind turbines that can operate in low wind speeds are needed to meet this goal. This study assesses the environmental implications and economic feasibility of small wind turbines. Using a functional unit of producing 50kWh per month for 20years, a Life Cycle Assessment was conducted comparing the global warming potential (GWP100), embodied energy, energy payback period (EPP) and levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) of four small wind turbines (≤20kW), a diesel generator, and the Thai grid. The turbines had a lower overall GWP100 compared to the diesel generator and Thai grid in areas with reasonable wind resources; the same was true for embodied energy when compared to the diesel generator. Interestingly, in most available wind speed categories in Thailand the LCOE for wind turbines was lower than for the diesel generator. However, neither could compare to the selling price of the Thai grid, except in the areas with the highest average wind speeds (7.0–9.4m/s). Because of the increased cost relative to the Thai grid, implementation of wind turbines in Thailand was not found to be economically feasible without government incentive.