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Noel Laporte

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What form of renewable energy has or will have the lowest impact on biodiversity?

Climate change, air pollution, rising sea levels and species extinction can all be attributed to the increasing usage of non-renewable energy in the world today. Non-renewable energy reserves are diminishing and finite with an ever-increasing demand from countries around the world. Coal, natural gas and oil all have detrimental effects on the environment. These effects are both local and global, harming species throughout the world. As we consider different renewable forms of energy, can we rank their potential impacts on biodiversity?

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    Apr 23 2013: I would like to think combination of solar and wind. Solar panels have less biodiversity impacts because they are usually used on the roof or in the urban areas. Solar energy can be used as small on-site renewable energy or can also be used as enormous as solar thermal. Like the Parabolic trough design in a solar energy site. Wind turbines, as we all know, have some controversial issues with birds and raptors conservationists. However, I had a biology conservation class and had a guest lecture and he talked about how they are doing a study of birds species that are affected by wind farms. They are studying the species nesting behaviors and flying/ soaring distance from ground. If all the ecologists and conservation biologists dedicate to research and help analyze the site before the wind farm gets built, it will have less impact on birds and raptors.

    However, I think a big land area like United States doesn't need to worry about land usage for energy generation. Small island countries, such as Taiwan, Japan, Philippines are not so lucky about renewable energy because they don't have enough land to build efficient wind farms or big solar energy sites to generate energy. Most of the energy still comes from coal and nuclear energy.

    To respond to Bill Gates: Innovating to Zero talk, I would think we should do it both ways. It means we are all responsible for reducing energy usage and never give up on innovating new technologies that will help us generate enough energy but have less biodiversity impacts. This being said, I would argue for more dense urban areas and less spread out suburban. Dense urban areas with solar roof and green roof combined.
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      Apr 23 2013: I agree with you that solar and wind generated energy is very green. Now, we have another technology, ocean current energy, that uses water current to produce energy that might be used in a small island countries.(you can check this web site: http://www.boem.gov/Renewable-Energy-Program/Renewable-Energy-Guide/Ocean-Current-Energy.aspx) I am from Maui, HI, and Hawaii is a good place to test those new green energies because of its unique environment, sunny, windy, and big waves. Despite these efforts, the electricity company on Maui, MECO, does not want to offer energy which is generated from the sun, wind, and water current because if they do, they need to lower the price, less profit! They are well aware of its safety, cost, and effects, so sad.
      However, as you mentioned, the effects on birds, building an wind farm is not a good idea as well as using water current energy due to the effects on marine species. There are several different types of turbines used in ocean current energy which might alter the environment in the ocean due to its sound and altering water current. Although those alterations might be not a big problem for fish, the impact of those alterations on microbes might be extreme. Thus, although the renewable energies might help climate change, biodiversity can be altered.
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      Apr 23 2013: you have to consider the manufacturing process too. once a solar panel is ready, it indeed poses no threat. but solar panels don't grow on trees.
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        Apr 23 2013: Yes, I agreed with you. Like every other renewable energy we need to put manufacturing process into account. Nuclear energy, wind turbines manufacture and any other elements. Everything need to be transported anyway. Wind turbines have huge issues on transportation to the sites because they are really enormous but I feel solar panels/ cells are easy to transfer and install. They are expensive and to produce, those cells are not "green" either. However, once they are installed and combined with other green roofs in a dense urban areas. I think this can be a promise of on-site energy generation.
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        Apr 24 2013: Good point! also turbines.

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