Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

Degree Level



Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences


Wood, Lisa

Committee Member/Reader

Wood, Lisa

Committee Member/Second Reader

Rucker, Jill

Committee Member/Third Reader

Whitehead, Isabel

Committee Member/Fourth Reader

Savin, Mary


This study presents current energy data from the United States and data from literature reviews to create life cycle assessments (LCA) for comparing the environmental impacts of wind and coal-fired energy generation and use. The environmental impacts were evaluated using emissions data, principally carbon dioxide emissions and carbon dioxide equivalents from methane. Other environmental impacts such as avian mortality and land use were compared as well. The LCA includes four phases: raw materials, transportation, use/retail, and waste. Overall, wind energy has a smaller environmental impact than coal-fired energy for the raw materials, transportation, use/retail, and waste phases. Wind energy resulted in significantly fewer avian deaths than coal-fired energy per GWh; however, wind energy requires a far greater amount of land than coal-fired energy. Using the data gathered, this study also discusses the timeline for transitioning from non-renewable energy to renewable energy sources. Non-renewable energy sources are finite. The United States relies heavily upon coal energy, and the transition to renewable energies will be lengthy. All energy sources create negative environmental impacts and associated costs that must be assessed when planning for the future of sustainable energy. An immediate transition to renewable energy is idealistic, whereas the country should strive to find a suitable balance between non-renewable and renewable energies. Researching the environmental impacts of each phase of energy systems in a LCA can pinpoint where emissions and environmental concerns arise. This process aids in future efforts to decrease emissions and environmental costs for both wind and coal-fired energy. Wind energy ultimately has less of an overall environmental impact and is a sustainable alternative to coal-fired energy as detailed in the LCA.


Life cycle assessment, wind energy, coal energy, renewables, environment, emissions