Deployment of renewable energy is expanding all over the world. There is high competition between alternative land uses, and conflicts over limited land are likely to emerge between biodiversity conservation and expanded deployment of renewable energy.
Dr Andrea Santangeli in the University of Helsinki, Finland, and his colleagues in the UK have explored global expansion of land use for renewable energies versus biodiversity protection. They discovered that the conflicts and opportunities largely depend on the type of energy at stake, with bioenergy strongly conflicting with biodiversity protection while generating only limited power at a global level.
Conversely, solar energy and, to a lower degree, wind energy, may provide relatively large power supplies with minimal impacts on biodiversity.
"We found that using a very limited amount of land for generating energy from the sun can yield large amounts of power without impacting the best areas for biodiversity protection. However, this result only holds when restrictions on energy storage and transport are largely ignored, which is unrealistic in the short term. Indeed, these findings highlight a major opportunity when political will and improved technologies make it possible to harvest renewable energy without such restrictions," says Andrea Santangeli.
Santangeli and colleagues also highlight that in the near future renewable energy most likely will not be able to make a very large contribution towards our total global energy consumption. So, other forms of energy still need to be considered.
This work was done as collaboration between researchers from the Universities of Helsinki (Finland), Aberdeen (UK) and Bolton (UK), and from the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (UK).