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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 24 2013: I've glimpsed through the discussion, and I'm surprised no one has brought up geo-exchange. It is different from the geothermal mentioned a few times in this feed, as it's not a means of generating electricity, rather a way to heat and cool buildings. It uses the constant temperature of the earth beneath the frost line as a source/sink for temperature regulation. A variation of the technology uses water as the source/sink. The new heat exchangers can now keep a building at room temperature without any other energy source besides the electricity to run the pumps and thermostat. They have even progressed to using heat collected from buildings in the summer to heat water. It has more potential to lower co2 levels than wind and solar, and can be more universally installed. With the new advances in drilling geo-exchange systems can be installed under existing parking lots and with a smaller surface area. There may be some set-backs (initial cost, sometimes increases property "footprint," difficult to install in urban areas), but no energy source will be perfect.
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      Apr 24 2013: Wow, I have never heard of this kind of heating/cooling technology before. It sounds pretty brilliant. And considering impact on Earth and biodiversity it is very appealing. I think that one of the big environmental draws of these systems is that they not only harness renewable energy, but they do it without taking up lots of land area like solar or wind energy systems. Right now in the U.S. the carbon emission load from heating, cooling and hot water use is huge! These three things account for about 40% of carbon emissions from the U.S., and that is even comparable to vehicle emissions(*). Considering how many people there are on the planet and the growing percentage of us that live in cities, moving away from oil, propane and natural gas to heat and cool buildings is a necessary step towards, well, any kind of future.

      This energy system is certainly not perfect, as you mentioned. Units weigh several tons and are not cheap. But the technology will inevitably improve and the system will become more streamlined and accessible. A geo-exchange system, coupled with solar power could be an excellent home energy setup. It will be interesting to see how the geo-exchange system evolves and whether or not it will gain popularity as the world makes its (hopefully quick) shift to alternative energy.

      (*) http://www.geoexchange.org/

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