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This side and that. (02/2023)

What challenges does the energy transition bring, Ms. Delzeit?

Text: Ruth Delzeit

Renewable energies are intended to replace fossil fuels. Many questions, however, remain unanswered. Some thoughts from experts in economics and in environmental sciences.

Ruth Delzeit
Professor Ruth Delzeit

Renewable energies are considered the key to reducing our dependency on fossil fuels and cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Studies that track the entire life cycle of energy sources, from their production to their disposal, show that renewable energies are overall more environmentally friendly than fossil fuels. As well as looking at greenhouse gas emissions, the assessments also consider other environmental indicators such as water consumption and pollution, biodiversity and use of resources.

Yet expanding renewable energies is not without its challenges: Sometimes, for instance, the projects clash with other possible uses (such as agriculture, conservation, or fulfilling local community needs) of a given piece of land. These conflicts vary depending on the type of energy and the local natural area. Wind farms can disrupt or even destroy wildlife habitats. They can also decimate bird populations if the birds collide with the rotor blades.

Other negative environmental impacts include sealing soils to build access roads, and the use of resources for manufacturing the wind turbines. In addition, some people feel that the turbines ruin the landscape. Photovoltaic (PV) systems require considerable space, either on existing infrastructure such as roofs, or on open land.

Ruth Delzeit is a professor of global and regional land use change. She conducts research on processes of global change and their impact on land as a scarce resource.

Read here how a graduate of the University of Basel wants to advance agrivoltaics with his start-up here

More articles in this issue of UNI NOVA (November 2023). 

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