EROEI = Energy return on energy invested

During the research for my nuclear energy post, I came across this graph:

It shows a highly favorable EROEI for nuclear plants. Of course, as it comes from the World NuclearAssociation, hardly a neutral party, I took it with a grain of salt and chose not to include it in my post.

The funny thing is that I received the following press release today:
The press release is from Vestas, the (Danish) largest manufacturer of wind turbines today (with more than a third of the world market):

A V90-3.0 MW offshore wind turbine has to produce electricity for just 6.8 months, before it has produced as much energy as used throughout its design lifetime. In other words this turbine model earns its own worth more than 35 times during its design lifetime.

Furthermore, compared to the V80-2.0 MW offshore wind turbine, the 6.8 months constitutes an improvement of approximately 2.2 months.

If installed on a good site, the V90-3.0 MW wind turbine will generate approximately 280,000 MWh in 20 years – thus sparing the environment the impact of a net volume of approximately 230,000 tons of CO2, as compared to the figures for energy generated by a coal-fired power station.

The above-mentioned are two of the results from a life cycle assessment (LCA), which Vestas completed of a V90-3.0 MW wind turbine in 2004. The calculations prove the environmental advantages of Vestas turbines also when taking the whole life cycle into consideration.

A life cycle assessment is both a mapping and an evaluation of the potential impact of the wind turbine on the external environment throughout its lifetime. The life cycle assessment for the V90-3.0 MW wind turbine is divided into four phases. 

  • The production phase, which covers the period from obtaining the raw materials to the completion of the wind turbine
  • Transport of the wind turbine components and erection of the wind turbine
  • Operation and maintenance throughout the 20-year design lifetime of the wind turbine
  • Disposal of the wind turbine.

Vestas provides a more detailed summary of the life cycle assessments as well as more detailed reports (see the links in that page); I’ll just steal one graph:

But the nucleocrats also provide some detailed studies, summarised in this document which regroups a number of findings which I have no way to assess but which look well-researched. The graph above summarises the main finding, i.e. that nuclear energy supposedly has a great EROEI.

So, who will help me to make sense of these numbers?

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