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LIFE CYCLE ASSESSMENT OF EXISTING AND EMERGING DISTRIBUTED GENERATION TECHNOLOGIES IN CALIFORNIA
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory was funded by the California Energy Commission’s Public Interest Energy Research Program and managed by the Institute of Energy and the Environment at the University of California Office of the President to conduct a life cycle assessment study on distributed generation. Life cycle assessment is an analytic method for identifying and evaluating the environmental impacts of emissions, resource consumption, and energy use associated with a specific process. In this study, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory examined the production of electricity by existing and emerging distributed generation technologies compared to a typical peaking power plant being built in California, a typical natural gas combined cycle power plant, and an integrated coal gasification combined cycle power plant.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory conducted a life cycle assessment of the environmental impacts of distributed generation in California. Distributed generation is defined by the California Energy Commission as electricity production that is on‐site or close to the load center and is interconnected to the utility distribution system.
Life cycle assessment is an analytic method for identifying and evaluating the environmental impacts of emissions, resource consumption, and energy use associated with a specific process; in the current analysis, the focus is on the generation of a kilowatt‐hour of electricity. In life cycle assessment , material and energy balances are used to determine the environmental stressors (emissions, resource consumption, and energy use) of all required operations, including raw material extraction, transportation, processing, and final disposal of products and by‐products. The results of this inventory are then used to evaluate the environmental impacts of the technology so that efforts can be focused on reducing negative effects.