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: For the near future I think solar is the best option. I also think residential solar energy needs to be a focus. No finding new places for large fields of panels. Many states and the federal government are allotting grants for just that. What the best option would be to attract homeowners would be that to have the electric companies buy back from the homeowners their excess energy, which there is still debate around. This decrease in energy bill and possible chance of selling the excess energy would be an attractant to homeowners.

    The problem with this right now is that solar cells are not efficient and are expensive. Solar cells only capture a fraction of the suns energy. If this efficiency were to increase it could drive the rate at which the panels would pay for themselves and increase the interest of homeowners installing them. I would have to think this technology is not far away.

    By placing solar panels on already existing structures it would decrease the impact on biodiversity. This and having incentives for homeowners I think is the best options that we have at the moment and could be feasible in the not so distant future. Needless to say this would not be a permanent solution to our energy crisis and further research into other forms of energy with even less effects on biodiversity and the environment is needed. But it is a step in the right direction.
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      Apr 23 2013: Another problem with using solar energy is that its abundance depends on where you live on the planet. I live in Oregon and the intensity of sun light during our late fall, winter, and early spring times is fairly low, making solar energy an impractical source for the majority of the year. This leaves me to question, since the majority of the Earth's land mass is above the equator, if it really is practical.

      Solar energy can be practical if light intensity is fairly consistent and can replace ecological damaging means of energy harvest such as hydroelectric dams, but what about areas such as Alaska? What natural source of energy can be harvested without affecting biodiversity and CO2 emissions there?
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        Apr 24 2013: I am wondering if solar panels could mimic leafs to reach an optimal surface area. I'm especially curious if we could innovate these solar "leafs" to both sense and face in the direction of highest intensity light throughout the day.

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