ECN publication
Comparative environmental life cycle assessment of composite materials
Published by: Publication date:
ECN Energy Efficiency in Industry 1997
ECN report number: Document type:
ECN-I--97-050 Other
Number of pages: Full text:
39 Download PDF  

The aim of the present study is to compare and quantify the environmentalimpact of three rotorblades made of different materials and to establish which stage in the life cycle contributes most. The life cycle of a product can be represented by the production phase, including depletion of raw materials (mining) and production (machining) of products, the utilisation phase, including use of energy, maintenance and cleaning, and the disposal phase, including landfill, incineration, recycling, etc. The environmental impact of a product is not only determined by the materials selected but also by the function of the product itself. E.g. when natural fibres are applied in vehicles as a substitution for metals the environmental impact in the use phase will be reduced due to a lower energy consumption caused by a lower car weight. The influence on the environmental impact of the production phase must also be taken into account. The material relation between the production phase and the use phase and the disposal phase is complicated. In general the lifetime of a product use phase can be extended (positive aspect), e.g. by application of a coating onto the surface. Due to the coating the product can not easily be recycled, which is a negative aspect. The three types of composites used in the rotorblade of the wind energy converter considered in this study are: flaxfibre reinforced epoxy, carbon fibre reinforced epoxy and glassfibre reinforced polyester. The assessment is performed using the computer program Simapro 3, which is based on the Dutch CML method for the environmental life-cycle assessment of products using the Eco-Indicator 95 evaluation method. The CML method defines five phases for an LCA: goal definition and scoping; inventory; classification; impact assessment; and improvement analysis. The improvement analysis is not part of this work. Performing an LCA is a time-consuming process due to the detailed information that is required. In chapter five some general guidelines for incorporating environment related issues into the design process are formulated, especially relating to composite materials, without performing an exhaustive LCA. 9 figs., 4 tabs., 22 refs., 2 appendices

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