TED Conversations

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 think that tidal power is promising. Many different mechanisms are being employed to capture this tidal energy. These include tidal dams, tidal fences (like big turnstiles that reach across channels), tidal turbines and tidal barrages. I found one company well on its way to the installation of tidal turbines. Tidal Energy Ltd has plans to install a DeltaStream (a tidal turbine placed on the seafloor) in the Ramsey Sound in southwest Wales. Their Environmental Assessment is available (http://www.tidalenergyltd.com/?page_id=17 under Resources). Many of the environmental dangers listed were assessed as of little consequence or low risk. What I understood of the assessment was a bit different. Diving birds would be at great risk to collision with turbines. The device would emit a sound that was supposed to warn mammals of its presence and deter them from a collision. The cable that will run from the turbine onto land would emit an electromagnetic field affecting fish. In not so many words, the report said that destruction of grasslands would be of little impact because it would be reinstated, but once an ecosystem is destroyed we all know the bidiversity is never the same. They were taking some initiative to use lubricates and oils that were biodegradable. The destruction of the grasslands would be during winter as to supposedly prevent the effect on nesting birds.

    Tidal power is a young and not well developed energy source, but its no emission production of energy is eluring. Of course whenever metal is mined, manufactured, transported and installed there is always emissions. The fact remains that the technology currently poses a great threat to aquatic wildlife, birds, terestrial ecology and biodiversity.


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      Apr 23 2013: I'm also very interested in harnessing the power ocean and tides to provide electricity. However, the idea of engineering power generating parts that will last a significant amount of time in the harsh environment of the ocean is a sticking point. Do you know anything about the materials being used, typical lifetime for use, or other related specifics?

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