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Assessment of sustainability indicators for renewable energy technologies

"The non-combustion based renewable electricity generation technologies were assessed against a range of sustainability indicators and using data obtained from the literature. The indicators used to assess each technology were price of generated electricity, greenhouse gas emissions during full life cycle of the technology, availability of renewable sources, efficiency of energy conversion, land requirements, water consumption and social impacts. The cost of electricity, greenhouse gas emissions and the efficiency of electricity generation were found to have a very wide range for each technology, mainly due to variations in technological options as well as geographical dependence of each renewable energy source. The social impacts were assessed qualitatively based on the major individual impacts discussed in literature. Renewable energy technologies were then ranked against each indicator assuming that indicators have equal importance for sustainable development. It was found that wind power is the most sustainable, followed by hydropower, photovoltaic and then geothermal. Wind power was identified with the lowest relative greenhouse gas emissions, the least water consumption demands and with the most favourable social impacts comparing to other technologies, but requires larger land and has high relative capital costs."
Annette Evans, Vladimir Strezov and Tim J. Evans
Graduate School of the Environment, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
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