No matter – how? Dealing with matter-less stressors in LCA: the case of noise in wind energy systems

S. Cucurachi, C.C. van der Giesen, R. Heijungs, G.R. de Snoo

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The portfolio of impacts that are quantified in life cycle assessment (LCA) has grown to include rather different stressors than those that were the focus of early LCAs. Some of the newest life cycle impact assessment (LCIA) models are still in an early phase of development and have not yet been included in any LCA study. This is the case for sound emissions and noise impacts, which have been only recently modeled. Sound emissions are matter-less, time dependent, and bound to the physical properties of waves. The way sound emissions and the relative noise impacts are modeled in LCA can show how new or existing matter-less impacts can be addressed. In this study, we analyze, through the example of sound emissions, the specific features of a matter-less impact that does not stem from the use of a kilogram of matter, nor is related to the emission of a kilogram of matter. We take as a case study the production of energy by means of wind turbines, contradicting the commonly held assumption that windmills have no emissions during use. We show how to account for sound emissions in the life cycle inventory phase of the life cycle of a wind turbine and then calculate the relative impacts using a noise LCIA model.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70-81
JournalJournal of Industrial Ecology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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