It takes more space to produce renewable energy than you think. New research by Paul Behrens, environmental scientist and Master of Science student John van Zalka, shows how much space do we need for nine specific types of energy production. Biomass, water, and winds occupy the most space. Natural gas and nuclear energy at least. The Energy Policy magazine has published this publication.
Different types of fuel need a different amount of space, and renewable energies generally need more space than fossil fuels. One way to compare them is to use the power density concept. That means the average electricity produced in one horizontal square meter of infrastructure. For the first time, scientists at the University of Leiden, collected 177 estimates of US electricity density from the scientific literature. Then they compared performance density for nine specific types of energy. The results are applicable to other countries as well.
More space, but significantly less pollution
They found that electricity density may vary up to 1000 times, with the lowest biomass (at 0.8 W / m2) and natural gas being the highest (at 1000 W / m2). Solar and wind power needs approximately 40-50 times more space than coal and 90-100 times more space than gas. “But the production of fossil fuels is very dirty,” says Paul Behrens, an environmental scientist at Leiden University. “So while renewable energy takes up more space, this space will be less polluted and can be used more than is the case for agricultural use near the base wind turbines.”
Roof solar energy
The analysis also found that solar energy density is steadily rising over time. It is with research suggesting that the new three-dimensional proposals could reach three to five times the current figures in the middle of this century.
With the growing population and the need for food and housing. The land in the middle of the century can become a premium item. “Very low biomass densities cause heavy sales of energy. It is especially because the land on which it is produced can sometimes be used to grow food,” says Beherens. “In order to avoid such competition, solar energy from the roofs will be the best choice. It will provide clean energy that will not compete with other land use. Wind farms off the coast will help and future technologies, such as algae farms, maybe another way of avoiding competition on the ground. ”
In order to investigate where the impact is greatest, the authors have used their performance densities on the national scenarios of the future of renewable power plants for renewable energy. Despite the almost three-fold area of land used by the energy sector in the southern states, the northeast has seen the largest visible change with more than 10% of the land devoted to energy production in 9 states.