By Dr. Natalia Sieti, LCA & Sustainability Specialist

What did people worldwide see last year when they google searched ‘sustainability’? Relevant terms included the topic of circular economy and energy, while environmental sustainability was the top related query.

I recently watched ‘the boy who harnessed the wind’ movie. #Spoiler Alert# . It talks about wind energy and the chance of human curiosity, science and technology to change the course of history in Sub-Saharan African that suffers from severe weather events and hunger.

Although the take-home message is evergreen, wind energy technology has been rapidly advancing for the past 20 years. One of the aspects that has been in the forefront of Research & Development recently is advancements in blade design to increase flow and decrease drag. These are important because they can lead to increased energy output and expand the lifetime of the turbine.

As part of the European Green Deal, by 2050, the EU aims to reduce Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) by transforming the EU energy system that accounts for more than 75% of the EU emissions. One can say wind power is environmentally sustainable as it is a renewable energy source. Yet an important debate is going on regarding waste problems by 2050.

In this context, IRES joined at the end of 2020 (along with other actors) an innovative European project called Carbo4Power. This project aiming to use nanoengineered materials for lightweight purposes, and circularity by increased recyclability of offshore wind blades.

IRES combines expertise and knowledge from several disciplines: life cycle assessment, risk and safety, data science. Reaching circularity, one must tackle interdisciplinary issues.

Life cycle assessment (LCA) is a standardized methodology (ISO 14040/44) to assess environmental impacts across the life cycle of a product or a system. It aims to identify tradeoffs and hotspots and propose recommendations to stakeholders. It must be borne in mind that environmental sustainability of a technological solution does not exist outside the economy and society. Economic and social aspects are to be addressed as well.

Whether you construct a windmill, watch a movie on environmental issues, or conduct LCAs as part of your day-to-day, you should embrace sustainability at least twice a day -after all embracing sustainability can be the engine of economic growth in the aftermath of COVID-19.