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Predicted wind and solar energy expansion has minimal overlap with multiple conservation priorities across global regions

Predicted wind and solar energy expansion has minimal overlap with multiple conservation priorities across global regions
Predicted wind and solar energy expansion has minimal overlap with multiple conservation priorities across global regions
Protected areas and renewable energy generation are critical tools to combat biodiversity loss and climate change, respectively. Over the coming decades, expansion of the protected area network to meet conservation objectives will be occurring alongside rapid deployment of renewable energy infrastructure to meet climate targets, driving potential conflict for a finite land resource. Renewable energy infrastructure can have negative effects on wildlife, and co-occurrence may mean emissions targets are met at the expense of conservation objectives. Here, we assess current and projected overlaps of wind and solar photovoltaic installations and important conservation areas across nine global regions using spatially explicit wind and solar data and methods for predicting future renewable expansion. We show similar levels of co-occurrence as previous studies but demonstrate that once area is accounted for, previous concerns about overlaps in the Northern Hemisphere may be largely unfounded, although they are high in some biodiverse countries (e.g., Brazil). Future projections of overlap between the two land uses presented here are generally dependent on priority threshold and region and suggest the risk of future conflict can be low. We use the best available data on protected area degradation to corroborate this level of risk. Together, our findings indicate that while conflicts between renewables and protected areas inevitably do occur, renewables represent an important option for decarbonization of the energy sector that would not significantly affect area-based conservation targets if deployed with appropriate policy and regulatory controls.
Conservation, Renewable energy, biodiversity, energy
0027-8424
Dunnett, Sebastian
b1fb2503-c353-4b6c-bb29-0a2e82f04c1f
Holland, Robert
9c245e65-06bb-4b0e-8214-2b00ad2a47df
Taylor, Gail
Eigenbrod, Felix
43efc6ae-b129-45a2-8a34-e489b5f05827
Dunnett, Sebastian
b1fb2503-c353-4b6c-bb29-0a2e82f04c1f
Holland, Robert
9c245e65-06bb-4b0e-8214-2b00ad2a47df
Taylor, Gail
Eigenbrod, Felix
43efc6ae-b129-45a2-8a34-e489b5f05827

Dunnett, Sebastian, Holland, Robert, Taylor, Gail and Eigenbrod, Felix (2022) Predicted wind and solar energy expansion has minimal overlap with multiple conservation priorities across global regions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 119 (6), [e2104764119]. (doi:10.1073/pnas.2104764119).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Protected areas and renewable energy generation are critical tools to combat biodiversity loss and climate change, respectively. Over the coming decades, expansion of the protected area network to meet conservation objectives will be occurring alongside rapid deployment of renewable energy infrastructure to meet climate targets, driving potential conflict for a finite land resource. Renewable energy infrastructure can have negative effects on wildlife, and co-occurrence may mean emissions targets are met at the expense of conservation objectives. Here, we assess current and projected overlaps of wind and solar photovoltaic installations and important conservation areas across nine global regions using spatially explicit wind and solar data and methods for predicting future renewable expansion. We show similar levels of co-occurrence as previous studies but demonstrate that once area is accounted for, previous concerns about overlaps in the Northern Hemisphere may be largely unfounded, although they are high in some biodiverse countries (e.g., Brazil). Future projections of overlap between the two land uses presented here are generally dependent on priority threshold and region and suggest the risk of future conflict can be low. We use the best available data on protected area degradation to corroborate this level of risk. Together, our findings indicate that while conflicts between renewables and protected areas inevitably do occur, renewables represent an important option for decarbonization of the energy sector that would not significantly affect area-based conservation targets if deployed with appropriate policy and regulatory controls.

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pnas.2104764119 - Version of Record
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Accepted/In Press date: 29 November 2021
Published date: 8 February 2022
Additional Information: Funding Information: ACKNOWLEDGMENTS. We are grateful for helpful comments from Alona Armstrong and Jim Wright on an early draft and thank the (often unsung) data curators of the respective conservation datasets, especially Edward Lewis for sourcing the archive WDPA data. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for significant improvements to our manuscript. Funding was provided by Addressing the Valuation of Energy and Nature Together Grant/Award NE/ M019640/1, Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), and a University of Southampton studentship to S.D. Publisher Copyright: © 2022 National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Conservation, Renewable energy, biodiversity, energy

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 455479
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/455479
ISSN: 0027-8424
PURE UUID: 9e77db27-d005-4c2d-b975-5fdcacfabea6
ORCID for Sebastian Dunnett: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-4238-2508
ORCID for Robert Holland: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-3038-9227
ORCID for Felix Eigenbrod: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-8982-824X

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Date deposited: 22 Mar 2022 17:43
Last modified: 25 Jan 2023 02:46

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Contributors

Author: Sebastian Dunnett ORCID iD
Author: Robert Holland ORCID iD
Author: Gail Taylor
Author: Felix Eigenbrod ORCID iD

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