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Comparative analysis of environmental impacts of maize-biogas and photovoltaics on a land use basis

  • This study aims to stimulate the discussion on how to optimize a sustainable energy mix from an environmental perspective and how to apply existing renewable energy sources in the most efficient way. Ground-mounted photovoltaics (PV) and the maize-biogas-electricity route are compared with regard to their potential to mitigate environmental pressure, assuming that a given agricultural area is available for energy production. Existing life cycle assessment (LCA) studies are taken as abasis to analyse environmental impacts of those technologies in relation to conventional technology for power and heat generation. The life-cycle-wide mitigation potential per area used is calculated for the impact categories non-renewable energy input, greenThis study aims to stimulate the discussion on how to optimize a sustainable energy mix from an environmental perspective and how to apply existing renewable energy sources in the most efficient way. Ground-mounted photovoltaics (PV) and the maize-biogas-electricity route are compared with regard to their potential to mitigate environmental pressure, assuming that a given agricultural area is available for energy production. Existing life cycle assessment (LCA) studies are taken as abasis to analyse environmental impacts of those technologies in relation to conventional technology for power and heat generation. The life-cycle-wide mitigation potential per area used is calculated for the impact categories non-renewable energy input, green house gas (GHG) emissions, acidification and eutrophication. The environmental performance of each system depends on the scenario that is assumed for end energy use (electricity and heat supply have been contemplated). In all scenarios under consideration, PV turns out to be superior to biogas in almost all studied impact categories. Even when maize is used for electricity production in connection with very efficient heat usage, and reduced PV performance is assumed to account for intermittence, PV can still mitigate about four times the amount of green house gas emissions and non-renewable energy input compared to maize-biogas. Soil erosion, which can be entirely avoided with PV, exceeds soil renewal rates roughly 20-fold on maize fields. Regarding the overall Eco-indicator 99 (H) score under most favourable assumptions for the maize–biogas route, PV has still a more than 100% higher potential to mitigate environmental burden. At present, the key advantages of biogas are its price and its availability without intermittence. In the long run, and with respect to more efficient land use, biogas might preferably be produced from organic waste or manure, whereas PV should be integrated into buildings and infrastructures.show moreshow less

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Metadaten
Document Type:Peer-Reviewed Article
Author:Markus Graebig, Stefan Bringezu, Richard Fenner
Year of Publication:2010
Language:English
Source Title (English):Solar energy
DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.solener.2010.04.002
Volume:84
Issue:7
First Page:1255
Last Page:1263
Dewey Decimal Classification:600 Technik, Medizin, angewandte Wissenschaften