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 harnessing tidal energy is an intriguing path for future renewable energy sources. Although there is much research that still needs to be done, I think it is promising. Due to water’s greater density, it has the potential to carry more energy than wind. Additionally, waves and tides can be more predictable than wind patterns. There would be a huge payoff if technology advanced enough to successfully harness the ocean forces. I think the question lies in whether the massive funds needed for further research exist? Perhaps tidal energy is too far off and resources would be better invested in improving renewable energy sources that are more advanced in their implementation. Also it would be hard to know the extent of all impacts the technology would have on the surrounding marine environment. Despite existing limitations, there is a huge amount of room for advancement in the area and it will be exciting to follow the research that seeks to harness tidal forces.

    Here are some articles that follow some recent projects:

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      Apr 23 2013: I had never heard of tidal power before, but after a little bit of research I think it could be a very promising idea. It looks like the technologies have gotten better so there is hope for the high cost to get down to competitive levels in the next few years. Also, because the tides are more predictable than wind or solar energy we may be able to produce a more steady rate of electricity in the future. Taking tidal power away from the oceans natural waves would have little impact on the Earth-Moon system. The effects would be negligible and would only be noticed over millions of years. But what about the effects on local ecosystems and biodiversity? Tidal stream generators can be built into existing structures like bridges, becuase of this there would be no extra impacts on the surrounding bodies of water.
      Does anybody else know what tidal power methods would impact biodiversity?
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        Apr 23 2013: I like the idea of harnessing tidal waves for energy although I feel like ocean animals are disregarded a lot of times when we are talking about biodiversity and that is most likely due to the out of sight out of mind mentality. Most of the structures I found that would be in the water harnessing this power look like they could do serious damage to some of the underwater organisms.
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          Apr 23 2013: This energy source has actually been under testing off the coast of the state of Oregon. From what I have seen, this prospect of energy harvest is very promising. Take a look at the first site below, it talks about the impact of using wave energy devices. The largest impact shown in the final report is expected to be on marine mammals as it may interfere with migration patters, but the effects on other forms of life is relatively low.

          Also, I think that this form of energy will be a renewable source of energy for cities, but our largest problem is the ever rising CO2 emissions from combustion engines that work off of oil based fuel. There has been practical work done to overcome this through hydrogen fueled cars, but governments are mostly unwilling to invest in new cars running on it.


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        Apr 24 2013: This does look very promising! I am curious how much energy independence this would create. Could this technology be introduced off the coast with man-made structures to induce wave crashing? Also, could this system be used to harness energy from strong currents?

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