Locally manufactured small wind turbines and pico-hydro plants are a low-cost alternative for providing energy access to rural communities, but the life cycle environmental impacts of such systems have not been thoroughly investigated. In this paper, a life cycle model and inventory have been implemented to assess the environmental impacts of locally manufactured technologies in an off-grid context, based on actual data from two case studies. Variations in parameters that influence the performance and impact of these systems, such as the number of failures and the availability of wind resource in the case of small wind turbines, have also been considered in the modelling. Life cycle impacts for the two systems are presented for five impact categories. In both cases, the manufacturing of components of the electrical system, such as the batteries and the inverter, is found to have significantly higher impacts than those of the locally manufactured energy conversion units. The results are then compared with the impacts of a small generator set. Overall, the study shows that both renewable energy systems have significantly lower impacts than the small generator set, with the pico-hydro plant having the lowest impacts due to its high capacity factor, while the impacts of the small wind turbine are found to depend heavily on the average wind speed of the installation site; a parameter that proved to be more significant in terms of environmental impacts than the actual number of failures that can occur in the lifetime of a locally manufactured machine.
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