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Research Papers

Life Cycle Environmental Impacts of Electricity Production by Solarthermal Power Plants in Spain

[+] Author and Article Information
Yolanda Lechón

 Centro de Investigaciones Energéticas Medioambientales y Tecnológicas (CIEMAT), Avenida Complutense 22, Madrid 28040, Spainyolanda.lechon@ciemat.es

Cristina de la Rúa, Rosa Sáez

 Centro de Investigaciones Energéticas Medioambientales y Tecnológicas (CIEMAT), Avenida Complutense 22, Madrid 28040, Spain

J. Sol. Energy Eng 130(2), 021012 (Mar 20, 2008) (7 pages) doi:10.1115/1.2888754 History: Received October 10, 2006; Revised October 25, 2007; Published March 20, 2008

The objectives of the analysis reported in this paper are to evaluate the environmental impacts of the electricity produced in a 17MW solar thermal plant with central tower technology and a 50MW solar thermal plant with parabolic trough technology, to identify the opportunities to improve the systems in order to reduce their environmental impacts, and to evaluate the environmental impact resulting from compliance with the solar thermal power objectives in Spain. The methodology chosen is the life cycle assessment (LCA), described in the international standard series ISO 14040-43. The functional unit has been defined as the production of 1kWh of electricity. Energy use needed to construct, operate, and dismantle the power plants is estimated. These results are used to calculate the “energy payback time” of these technologies. Results were around 1yr for both power plants. Environmental impacts analyzed include the global warming impacts along the whole life cycle of the power plants, which were around 200gkWh generated. Finally, the environmental impacts associated with the compliance of the solar thermal power objectives in Spain were computed. Those figures were then used to estimate the avoided environmental impacts including the potential CO2 emission savings that could be accomplished by these promotion policies. These savings amounted for 634kt of CO2 equiv./yr.

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Copyright © 2008 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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Figure 1

Life cycle of a solar thermal power plant

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Figure 2

Global warming emissions (g/kW h) in the operation of the parabolic trough solar thermal plant, contribution of different parts

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Figure 3

Impact analysis results for the central tower solar thermal power plant

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Figure 4

Impact analysis results for the parabolic trough solar thermal power plant

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Figure 5

Avoided impacts per year due to the implementation of the solar thermal objectives of the REP 2005-2010

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