Renewable energy will potentially make an important contribution towards the dual aims of meeting carbon emission reduction targets and future energy demand. However, some technologies have considerable potential to impact on the biodiversity of the environments in which they are placed. In this study, an assessment was undertaken of the realistic deployment potential of a range of renewable energy technologies in the UK, considering constraints imposed by biodiversity conservation priorities. We focused on those energy sources that have the potential to make important energy contributions but which might conflict with biodiversity conservation objectives. These included field-scale solar, bioenergy crops, wind energy (both onshore and offshore), wave and tidal stream energy. The spatially-explicit analysis considered the potential opportunity available for each technology, at various levels of ecological risk. The resultant maps highlight the energy resource available, physical and policy constraints to deployment, and ecological sensitivity (based on the distribution of protected areas and sensitive species). If the technologies are restricted to areas which currently appear not to have significant ecological constraints, the total potential energy output from these energy sources was estimated to be in the region of 5,547 TWh/yr. This would be sufficient to meet projected energy demand in the UK, and help to achieve carbon reduction targets. However, we highlight two important caveats. First, further ecological monitoring and surveillance is required to improve understanding of wildlife distributions and therefore potential impacts of utilising these energy sources. This is likely to reduce the total energy available, especially at sea. Second, some of the technologies under investigation are currently not deployed commercially. Consequently this potential energy will only be available if continued effort is put into developing these energy sources/ technologies, to enable realisation of their full potential.
Reconciling Biodiversity Conservation and Widespread Deployment of Renewable Energy Technologies in the UK
Title: Reconciling Biodiversity Conservation and Widespread Deployment of Renewable Energy Technologies in the UK
May 25, 2016
Journal: PLoS One
Publisher: PLoS ONE
Gove, B.; Williams, L.; Beresford, A.; Roddis, P.; Campbell, C.; Teuten, E.; Langston, R.; Bradbury, R. (2016). Reconciling Biodiversity Conservation and Widespread Deployment of Renewable Energy Technologies in the UK. PLoS One, 11(5), 30.