Spatially explicit optimisation model for investigating the land use implications of future energy scenarios
Ms Gemma Delafield, University of Exeter, UK
To tackle the global climate emergency, the UK has committed to a legally binding net-zero emissions target for 2050. Policy-makers need to understand where new electricity generation may be located to determine the impacts and feasibility of different transitions to net zero. Existing energy systems models however tend to have limited spatial resolution. Without incorporating geospatial issues into energy system modelling, the cost of energy transitions may be misrepresented and the wider impacts on the natural environment, at a local, regional and landscape level, overlooked.
A national-scale spatially disaggregated integrated model has been developed to determine the land use change impacts of transitioning to a low carbon energy system. The modelling framework uses various spatial optimization techniques to determine the least cost locations for multiple renewable energy technologies. By incorporating values from the environmental economics literature, the impact of different potential energy mixes on the provision of ecosystem services can be considered and the socially optimal locations for energy infrastructure identified.
Ecosystem impacts of floating photovoltaic systems on water bodies
Mr Giles Exley, Lancaster University, UK
Floating solar photovoltaic installations are an emerging form of solar energy deployed on varying types of water bodies globally. Deployments have proliferated in recent years, particularly in land-scarce areas, as the drive to decarbonise the energy mix intensifies. However, the potential ecosystem opportunities and trade-offs of floating solar photovoltaic installations remain unclear, often acting as a barrier to deployment and potentially posing a threat to ecosystems. In this talk Giles will outline:
- The current understanding of floating solar ecosystem impacts
- The perceived opportunities and threats of floating solar from stakeholders
- The need to resolve ecosystem impacts, contextualised in the UN Sustainable Development Goals
- The insight gained from the modelling of a UK water body hosting floating solar
Given the need to rapidly develop understanding, in light of the anticipated growth of floating solar, this talk pin points the knowledge gaps and improvements critical to ensuring installations minimise ecosystem threats and maximise opportunities, safeguarding overall sustainability.
Trade-offs between greenhouse gas emissions, climate regulation and ecosystem services within a transport context
Dr Kathryn G Logan, University College Dublin, Ireland
Transitioning from internal combustion engine private vehicles in favour of electric and hydrogen alternatives is an essential part of the solution to meet net zero in the UK by 2050. Adapting low carbon transport will result in an increase in electricity demand which will impact both ecosystem services (ES) and natural capital (NC), however long term environmental impacts are likely to remain lower than their conventionally fuelled alternatives.
Robust projections of societal energy demands post low carbon transition are required to ensure adequate power generation is installed. By projecting energy demand for electric and hydrogen cars, buses and trains, the spatial requirements of additional renewable energy (onshore/offshore wind and solar), nuclear and fossil fuels, on ES and NC can be predicted.
Results will discuss the mix between hydrogen and electric transport types in the future and how this will be dependent on geographical location and resource availability. To reduce the requirements for additional electricity and for carbon outputs to decrease, minimising the impact on NC and ES, policy makers need to focus on encouraging a modal shift towards low carbon public transport and to ensure a more sustainable route to decarbonising transport.
The ecology and sustainability of solar energy across natural and human-dominated landscapes
Dr Rebecca R Hernandez, University of California, Davis, USA
Ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction targets have underscored the need for a rapid global energy transition from carbon-intensive energy systems to renewables, and arguably, more local energy systems. Such a transition requires changes not only in global energy infrastructure but also across interconnected food, water, and land systems. One critical question remains: how will we meet our global renewable energy goals while maintaining food security and the conservation of ecosystem services and species that humans depend on? Using interdisciplinary research methods, Dr Hernandez will discuss impacts of ground-mounted solar energy infrastructure on plants, soils, and ecosystem services and the role that siting and procurement of energy infrastructure and resources, respectively, plays in achieving localized, renewable energy goals. Next, Dr Hernandez will discuss the role of techno–ecological synergy (TES), a framework for engineering mutually beneficial relationships between technological and ecological systems, as an approach to augment the sustainability of solar energy across diverse recipient environments, including land, food, water, and built-up systems. Solar energy is projected to meet a lion’s share of the global energy demands by 2050. Dr Hernandez’s research elucidates how such a build-out can be achieved sustainably on an increasingly full and imperiled Earth.