Willersey solar farm

2,000 renewable energy projects shown to have negative biodiversity impact

Image credit: Belectric

Researchers have claimed that more than 2,000 renewable energy facilities are built in areas of environmental significance and could be negatively impacting local biodiversity.

The team from the University of Queensland in Australia have mapped the location of solar, wind and hydropower facilities in wilderness, protected areas and key biodiversity areas.

Lead author José Rehbein said he was alarmed by the findings: “Aside from the more than 2,200 renewable energy facilities already operating inside important biodiversity areas, another 900 are currently being built.

“Energy facilities and the infrastructure around them, such as roads and increased human activity, can be incredibly damaging to the natural environment. These developments are not compatible with biodiversity conservation efforts.”

The majority of renewable energy facilities in western Europe and developed nations are located in biodiverse areas. Rehbein said there is still time for developers to reconsider facilities under construction in Asia and Africa.

University of Amsterdam senior author Dr James Allan said effective conservation efforts and a rapid transition to renewable energy was essential to prevent species extinctions and avoid catastrophic climate change.

“The entire team agree that this work should not be interpreted as anti-renewables because renewable energy is crucial for reducing carbon emissions,” Dr Allan said. “The key is ensuring that renewable energy facilities are built in places where they do not damage biodiversity.

“Renewable energy developments must consider biodiversity as well as carbon and avoid any negative impacts on biodiversity to be truly sustainable.”

The team urge governments, industry and development organisations to avoid expanding renewable energy facilities into conservation areas and plan for alternative locations.

Earlier this week researchers said that continuing to use coal in electricity production incurred higher costs than not using it altogether when considering the impacts from higher healthcare costs and biodiversity loss.

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