Keywords: renewable energy systems, sustainable development, sustainability indicators, photovoltaics, wind energy, wind power, wind turbines, natural gas, gas and steam plants
How sustainable are our energy technologies? Photovoltaics and wind energy systems as examples
The energy sector plays a key role within the concept of Sustainable Development. Therefore, sustainability aspects should be considered when new energy systems are assessed. How does a specific supply option contribute to a desired sustainable development of the energy system? To answer this question, indicators are needed. These should cover the most significant sustainability issues of the energy sector. In a research project carried out at the Chair for Energy Systems and Energy Economics of Ruhr-Universitat Bochum, seven appropriate indicators were found. They were applied to wind turbines and photovoltaic systems as well as to a natural gas fired gas and steam plant. Sample calculations reveal characteristic strength and weakness profiles for the evaluated systems against the sustainability criteria. The results show, that renewable energy systems clearly contribute to a sustainable development of the energy sector. The indicators are, in principle, applicable to other energy technologies.