Life cycle of a wind power plant

Electricity produced by wind turbines contributes significantly less to global warming than electricity produced by fossil fuels. To examine how much each stage of the wind power plant's life cycle contributes to global warming, we assessed their specific CO2 emissions.

Life Cycle Stages

7.5 months
average energy

payback time for a wind turbine

Manufacturing

8% Global warming contribution

Manufacturing

We collected data from Siemens’ own production sites and from main suppliers. Consumption data for manufacturing as well as waste and subsequent treatment is based primarily on annual manufacturing data from European production sites. Transport of materials to the manufacturing site is included in the data. Percentage of global warming contribution from this life cycle stage: 8%

Installation

5% Global warming contribution

Installation

On-site installation includes preparing the site, erecting the turbines, and connecting the turbines to the grid. These installation activities result in the consumption of resources and production of waste. Percentage of global warming contribution from this life cycle stage: 5%

Operation and
Maintenance

2% Global warming contribution

Operation and Maintenance

The structural design lifetime of a Siemens 2.3 MW wind turbine is designed to last 20 years. Manpower, materials, and energy required for service and maintenance over the turbine’s lifetime are taken into account. There are almost no emissions during wind power plant operation. The percentage of global warming contribution from this life cycle stage is 2%.

Dismantling and
end-of-life

-20% Global warming contribution

Dismantling and end-of-life

At the wind power plant’s end-of-life the components are disassembled and the materials transported and treated according to different waste management systems. There is an offset to emissions at end-of-life because a large part of the materials is recyclable. The percentage of global warming contribution from this life cycle stage is -20%.

Materials

85% Global warming contribution

Materials

The main contributor to global warming is the material stage because of emissions during material extraction. The turbine’s tower and foundation contribute more than 50%, followed by the blades and nacelle. Percentage of global warming contribution from this life cycle stage: 85%