University of Twente Student Theses


Water, carbon and land footprint of solar thermal technologies

Wijmans, Nora (2020) Water, carbon and land footprint of solar thermal technologies.

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Abstract:This research quantifies the impact of solar thermal energy regarding its water, carbon and land footprint. As countries transition to alternative energy production methods, it is critical to take a broad and encompassing approach to avoid trading one problem for another. The appeal of solar thermal energy largely lies in its minimal operational carbon footprint when compared to the operational carbon footprint of coal and gas fire plants. However, if the full supply chain and other environmental indicators are considered, it may be found that switching from coal and gas to solar thermal may only be trading one problem for another. Two types of solar thermal plants are considered within this research, the solar power tower (SPT) and parabolic trough collector (PT). Each with a high level of detail to pinpoint where in the plant and supply chain emissions are created. Data is gathered using the Ecoinvent database and supplemented with values from literature when needed. The data used is based on the construction of two solar thermal power plants in South Africa but it is assumed modeling a plant will be very similar in all parts of the world. Both the construction and the operation phases are considered and calculated separately to allow for comparison. Each power plant is broken down into its key units and the footprints are calculated for each unit separately so which aspect of the plant causes what emissions can be seen. This information is useful to compare with other types of energy production to determine which type is best suited for a particular area. It is important to understand how changing to any new form of energy production will affect the natural resources utilization. A full footprint analysis of different energy systems (or energy production technologies) can help decide which mix of energy production technologies will meet power demand while minimizing the strain on the natural environment.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:ET: Engineering Technology
Subject:43 environmental science
Programme:Sustainable Energy Technology MSc (60443)
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