Biomass & Bioenergy, Vol.110, 1-12, 2018
Cultivating biomass locally or importing it? LCA of biomass provision scenarios for cleaner electricity production in a small tropical island
Biomass is a promising renewable alternative to decarbonize and to secure energy production on small islands, as most insular power generation systems rely heavily on imported fossil fuels. Feedstock procurement is a key aspect of bioenergy chain sustainability, and local resources as well as imported biomass can be considered if the electricity generated presents environmental benefits. We used Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to evaluate the environmental impacts of 1 kWh of electricity produced in Guadeloupe from the combustion of locally grown energy cane and imported wood pellets. The energy cane agricultural supply was simulated using a bio-economic model to elaborate and analyze five scenarios involving different biomass mixes and geographical areas of production. Our results show that electricity produced from energy cane reduced the impacts of ABIOTIC DEPLETION, ACIDIFICATION and PHOTOCHEMICAL OXIDATION by 29% compared with pellet-based electricity. The environmental impacts of the energy cane cultivation stage varied by a factor of 1.5-3.7 among regional areas of cultivation because of differences in yields, soil emissions and land conversion for energy crop farming. The substitution of 5% of fossil energy by biomass in the island electricity mix can reduce GLOBAL WARMING and ABIOTIC DEPLETION impact by 4.5%. However, this change requires 3.5 to 5.2 times higher LAND OCCUPATION per unit of energy produced. Given the limited land availability on small islands, this latter point confirms that the combination of locally grown energy crops with imported biomass will be a suitable strategy to develop sustainable bioenergy for small islands.