Energy Sprawl is Impacting Open Spaces

American energy demand already has posed huge impacts on land use but, as we transition to ever more dilute forms of energy, primarily solar, wind and biofuels, the land required for these sources far exceeds that used for drilling, mining or fracking for coal, oil or gas.  The team analyzed both direct sitings and what they call “landscape-level” impacts for all major sources of energy, both electricity and liquid fuels.  By far the lowest direct+landscape footprint was provided by nuclear power, at 0.13 km2/TWhr.  The highest foot comes from biomass, clocking in at 809.74 km2/TWhr.  Click here to download their chart of Land-use Efficiencies.

This study endeavors to quantify projected energy sprawl (new land required for energy production) in the United States through 2040. They found that between direct siting and spacing requirements, over 800,000 km2 of additional land area will be affected by energy development, an area greater than the size of Texas. The pace of development in the United States seen recently is more than double the historic rate of urban and residential development, which has been the greatest driver of conversion in the United States since 1970, and is higher than projections for future land use change from residential development or agriculture.

The authors were clearly concerned that meeting energy demands while conserving nature will be a very difficult feat and they believe that to have the least impact, we will need to reduce energy usage considerably and seek appropriate siting and mitigation.

Read more at “Energy Sprawl Is the Largest Driver of Land Use Change in United States an study published by Plos One.