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Tariq Siddiqui's picture
COO, Upstream EP Advisors LLC

Oil & Energy | Business Development | Capital Projects | Offshore Wind -  Proven leader in offshore development and operations, with 25+ years’ expertise in managing business through cycles...

  • Member since 2021
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  • Jul 12, 2021

Electricity generation from wind power doesn’t directly create emissions, but the manufacture, construction and end-of-life disposal of wind turbines does. To date, no power technology has achieved carbon neutrality over its life cycle (nuclear comes close but its expensive).


  • At estimated 55 million tonnes of total life cycle carbon emissions is a small fraction of emissions from Thermal power, but its is still far from carbon-neutral


  • 86% of total lifecycle emissions for wind power comes from raw materials extraction and turbine manufacture.
  • The remaining 14% comes from transportation, installation, operation and maintenance, and decommissioning and disposal.
  • Together, steel & concrete contribute ~ 95% of raw material emissions, making them the key target for achieving reductions.


  • The top five turbine suppliers in the world have all committed to becoming carbon neutral in their operations. 
  • Use of Green-Steel (currently no plant is green), renewables and Electric Vehicles could help reduce the carbon-footprint.


  • The indirect emissions from raw material extraction and manufacturing of steel and concrete remains a core challenge.
  • Decommissioned capacity set to increase six-fold between 2020 and 2030, end-of-life disposal will increasingly be an issue. 
Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jul 12, 2021

Electricity generation from wind power doesn’t directly create emissions, but the manufacture, construction and end-of-life disposal of wind turbines does. To date, no power technology has achieved carbon neutrality over its life cycle (nuclear comes close but its expensive).

When defining it this way, wouldn't it be true that absolutely no new energy sources can be carbon neutral? Perhaps with nuclear given a long lifetime and rate of generation you can minimize the per kWh emissions, but the construction emissions do exist-- you can only theoretically get those to zero through some sort of offset program, right? Or are you looking to carbon negative technologies of the future?

Tariq Siddiqui's picture
Tariq Siddiqui on Jul 12, 2021

Indeed no source of energy is free from emissions but scale is important. The short-term solution is to Avoid/Reduce, renewables like wind, solar etc. are most effective in this effort. Then some industries (especially cement and steel) are hard to remove because of technology availability and cost, but also the time frame! Therefore, longer-term solution would be to offset what cannot be removed/avoided. This require removal of CO2, negative emissions through offset in VCC. The voluntary carbon markets (VCC) are not well developed and measurement, verification protocols are still not standardized! Although potential is great for VCC, but so are the challenges, despite being a greater supporter of it, I do realize that realism is needed!

Therefore, major focus must remain on avoiding/reducing where renewables like wind energy can help, leaving very very hard to remove emissions to carbon negative technologies! 




Peter Farley's picture
Peter Farley on Jul 13, 2021

There is a difference between carbon neutral and zero carbon. Over their lifetime, modern wind turbines generate 50-100 times the energy used in material extraction, refinement, construction, transport and installation, so in any meaningful sense they are carbon neutral. They are not zero carbon and therefore we should continue to reduce carbon in their inputs by using EAF steel, more efficient transport designs and techniques like thermoplastic or vegatable based resins and fibres in blades, however by far the best value for money on any national budget at the moment is simply to continue to replace fossil fuels for heating and transport with electricity and replacing fossil fuels in power generation with wind and solar

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Jul 13, 2021

Not so sure the assumption of zero carbon emissions is reasonable or even attainable.

Seems to me the metrics should be based primarily on economics while avoiding undue harm to the environment, with CO2 emissions more of a secondary issue.

Tony Fleming's picture
Tony Fleming on Jul 20, 2021

From looking at the summary on the Wood-Mac site, it is clear that the largest source of emissions by far comes from mining of the raw materials (they call it extraction). Both wind and solar generators rely on large amounts of precious metals, rare earths, and other oddball elements, almost none of which tend to occur in concentrated ores but rather as diffuse low grade deposits. In short, that means extracting a ton of, say, neodymium and dysporium (a large modern wind turbine may have more than a half ton of them in the magnets) requires moving thousands (or tens of, depending on ore grade) of tons of waste rock. Ergo, there are your emissions, since mining at that scale is not and cannot be done using electricity.

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