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Front. Energy Res. | doi: 10.3389/fenrg.2019.00032

Lifecycle environmental impact assessment of an overtopping wave energy converter embedded in breakwater systems

  • 1University of Siena, Italy
  • 2Università degli Studi della Campania Luigi Vanvitelli Caserta, Italy

Overtopping breakwater systems are among the most promising technologies for exploiting wave energy to generate electricity. They consist in water reservoirs, embedded in piers, placed on top of ramps, higher than sea-level. Pushed by wave energy, seawater fills up the reservoirs and produces electricity by flowing back down through low head hydro turbines. Different overtopping breakwater systems have been tested worldwide in recent years. This study focuses on the Overtopping BReakwater for Energy Conversion (OBREC) system that has been implemented and tested in the harbor of Naples (Italy). The Life Cycle Assessment of a single replicable module of OBREC has been performed for analyzing potential environmental impacts, in terms of Greenhouse Gas Emissions, considering construction, installation, maintenance, and the operational phases. The Carbon Footprint (i.e. mass of CO2eq) to build wave energy converters integrated in breakwater systems has been estimated, more specifically the “environmental investment” (i.e. the share of Carbon Footprint due to the integration of wave energy converter) needed to generate renewable electricity has been assessed. The Carbon Intensity of Electricity (i.e. the ratio between the CO2eq emitted and the electricity produced) has been then assessed in order to demonstrate the profitability and the opportunity to foster innovation in the field of blue energy. Considering the impact for implementing an operational OBREC module (Carbon Footprint = 1.08 t CO2eq; Environmental Investment = 0.48 t CO2eq) and the electricity production (12.6 MWh/yr per module), environmental benefits (avoided emissions) would compensate environmental costs (i.e. Carbon Footprint; Environmental Investment) those provided within a range of 25 and 13 months respectively.

Keywords: blue energy, Life Cycle Assessment, Carbon Footprint, Carbon intensity of electricity, Environmental investment

Received: 05 Sep 2018; Accepted: 08 Mar 2019.

Edited by:

MICHEL FEIDT, UMR7563 Laboratoire d'énergétique et de mécanique théorique et appliquée (LEMTA), France

Reviewed by:

John M. Polimeni, Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, United States
Zhen Liu, Ocean University of China, China  

Copyright: © 2019 Patrizi, Pulselli, Neri, Niccolucci, Vicinanza, Contestabile and Bastianoni. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Riccardo Maria Pulselli, University of Siena, Siena, 53100, Tuscany, Italy,