Wind turbines convert the wind's energy into electrical power.

Credit: Nati Harnik/AP

Scientist Says To Plan For Energy Sprawl When Combatting Climate Change

June 28, 2017

City and state leaders nationwide joined in a band of defiance to President Donald Trump's decision to rescind the U.S. from the Paris climate accord. The Paris agreement, a 196-nation pact signed into existence in December 2015, aspires to cut emissions output, adopt clean energy sources and cap the rise of global temperatures.

But as Boston and other cities work to increase clean energy use amid a rapidly increasing global population, the risk of offsetting another environmental problem becomes an issue.

One scientist says the answer is in strategizing “energy sprawl” — the amount of land used for producing energy.

“We’re going to need to generate more energy than we currently do, and that’s going to take a lot more space to do it," said Joe Kiesecker, lead scientist for the global lands team at the Nature Conservancy.

The Conservancy’s new book, "Energy Sprawl Solutions: Balancing Global Development and Conservation” addresses this issue and outlines simple

Photo Credit: The Nature Conservancy

solutions.

Kiesecker says the increased use of renewable energy is crucial in addressing energy-related emissions — but it must be done with meticulous, long-term planning.

“If we’re not careful in how we plan for that new energy future, we trade one conflict for another — climate change for land use conflict," he said. 

Not everyone in Massachusetts is in the same boat when it comes to giving the green light for all forms of renewable energy. Some are opposed to the clear cutting of land to install solar panels. The installation of wind turbines has also been a point of dispute. Cape Wind, the proposed wind farm in Nantucket, continues to gain disapproval from residents. Concerns grew over the possibility of wind turbines ramping up pollution and interfering with navigation — not to mention, the eye sore some thought it be.

But, Kiesecker says there’s an upside.

“The positive side is that there’s so much flexibility in how we can site renewable energy so we can put renewable energy on lands that have low conflict or low conservation value," he said. 

Tidal power, or wave energy, is another form of renewable energy that’s hasn’t received much buzz but has a large footprint like land. Kiesecker says the same strategic planning for wind and solar use applies for tidal power, in order to avoid potential harm to the marine environment.

Click the audio player above to listen to the Joe Kiesecker's entire interview with WGBH's Morning Edition host Bob Seay. 

 


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