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Life cycle analysis of a community hydroelectric system in rural Thailand

Pascale, Andrew (2010) Life cycle analysis of a community hydroelectric system in rural Thailand. Masters by Coursework thesis, Murdoch University.

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This study iteratively applies life cycle assessment (LCA) to a three kilowatt community hydroelectric system located in Huai Kra Thing (HKT) village in rural Thailand. The cradle to grave analysis models the hydropower scheme’s construction, operation and end of life phases over a period of twenty years and includes all relevant equipment, materials and transportation. This study asks whether the HKT hydroelectric power system has the fewest environmental negatives of equivalent electrification options for the village over its 20 year life span.

The study results in the enumeration of the environmental credentials of the HKT hydropower system and highlights the need to place environmental performance, and LCA itself, in a proper context. Credentials are established though comparison with rural electrification alternatives and sensitivity analyses.

In the broadest sense, LCA results for the HKT hydropower system are in line with a common trend reported in hydropower LCA literature, namely that smaller hydropower systems have a greater environmental impact per kWh than larger systems. Placed within a rural electrification context, however, the HKT hydropower system yields better environmental outcomes than all surveyed alternatives. Sensitivity analyses reveal that only when worst system design and performance are approached do the environmental credentials of the HKT hydropower system become questionable.

Successful community electrification rests on the locally led adaptation of globally sourced technology to meet the specific environmental, social and economic challenges of rural areas. The further useful application of LCA to rural electrification in Thailand requires similar intervention. Local stakeholder involvement is needed to adapt LCA to rural electrification conditions, collect Thai specific manufacturing data, normalize results to Thailand and report findings in an appropriate manner for local populations. Undertaken collaboratively with local stakeholders and integrated with tools such as life cycle costing, LCA can be an indispensable input into rural electrification decision making in Thailand.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Coursework)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Engineering and Energy
Supervisor(s): Urmee, Tania
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