October 19, 2021

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AFTER: Renewable energy takes up a lot of space — too much space?

AFTER: Renewable energy takes up a lot of space — too much space?

The energy sector accounts for three quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions. This sector must become virtually zero-emissions quickly if the goals of the Paris Agreement are to be met by 2050.

Harvesting renewable energy from solar, wind, water and bioenergy requires space in nature and is incompatible with maintaining biodiversity and biologically sensitive areas. Data from wind and solar parks show that solar parks occupy 10-15 square kilometers per terawatt-hour (TWh) annually. In contrast, the planning area for a wind farm is 30 square kilometers per TWh per TWh. general.

Anders Elverhöy

Anders Elverhöy

With regard to solar cells and wind turbines, photosynthesis is an inefficient process in terms of space. In practice, 500 to 1,000 square kilometers are needed to produce one terawatt-hour per year for the consumer.

Øystein Hof

Øystein Hof

Earlier this year, the International Energy Agency published a “Net Zero by 2050” report. This report has gained significant political prominence and is used as a justification for statements such as “We have the means, but we lack the will.” The International Energy Agency says that the current consumption of fossil energy could be reduced from 80 percent of the current total to 20 percent of the total in 2050, provided a certain increase in energy efficiency.

Stein b.  Jensen

Stein b. Jensen

Most countries today have only 10-20 percent of renewable energy in their supply. Over the next 30 years, the global energy harvest will change, from subsurface sources we don’t see, to surface sources with clearly visible technologies.

It is easy to understand that the energy system of the future will be a huge challenge for the use of areas on Earth.

We will point out two somewhat unresolved aspects of global zero-emission energy supplies:

  • Access to “sustainable” areas
  • Bioenergy – the impact of climate and biodiversity.

Access to land is critical to implementing the renewable energy revolution. The challenge is especially great in countries with high population density and a large proportion of cultivated land.

Countries like the Netherlands and Belgium cannot get enough renewable energy from their soil. If these countries want to cover their energy needs, for example from wind energy, it is required that nearly half of the land on Earth is included in wind farms.

Even in Germany and England, large tracts of land must be included as part of solar and wind farms.

Attempts have been made to estimate how much a country supplied with only renewable energy should reduce its energy consumption if biologically sensitive areas and the country’s renewable energy potential are taken into account. Data from the UK suggests that energy consumption in 2050 should be reduced by 40 per cent from the current level.

Land scarcity is exacerbated when popular opposition to the development of renewable energy is taken into account. Here, Norway is a good example where further wind energy development has been put on hold due to local resistance.

… The use of granules as an alternative to coal in thermal power plants is gradually being well documented to have a negative impact on the climate


In the global low-emissions community, the International Energy Agency says nearly 20 percent of energy supply in 2050 will come from climate-neutral bioenergy. However, the use of granules as an alternative to coal in thermal power plants has been progressively well documented to have a negative impact on the climate.

Also of concern is that the International Energy Agency is planning extensive use of biofuels. Large-scale use of bioenergy will require targeted cultivation of fast-growing plants and trees, and thus have a negative impact on the natural environment.

If we include the area requirements related to bioenergy use, the IEA says that four million square kilometers are required for this production. Based on a review of the professional literature, we believe that it is realistic that 10-20 million square kilometers would be required to reach such a mass production of biomass. The global land area is just over 130 million square kilometres, of which about 40 percent is agricultural land.

It is clear that massive investment in bioenergy could lead to major conflict in the region.

There are many indications that the large-scale use of bioenergy does not belong to global renewable energy production, as it is far from being emissions-neutral and large areas of land are affected. This leaves a huge unmet need (about 27,000 TWh per year globally).

Also read these posts on bioenergy:

In the International Energy Agency’s 2050 analysis, nuclear power has been increased from the current 5 percent to 11 percent of total energy production. So far, only sporadic attempts have been made to start a realistic discussion about the future use of this energy source.

The most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has demonstrated a significant commitment to climate change. However, the solutions have negative impacts on the natural environment, and the protection of biodiversity places significant limitations on the areas that can be made available for harvesting renewable energy.(Terms)Copyright Dagens Næringsliv AS and/or our suppliers. We would like you to share our cases using a link that leads directly to our pages. All or part of the Content may not be copied or otherwise used with written permission or as permitted by law. For additional terms look here.

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