All energy sources (fossil fuels as well as renewable energies) have some effect on our environment. Even though renewables are considered environmentally preferable to conventional sources (and, when replacing fossil fuels, have significant potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions) it is still important to understand the impacts linked to the production of power from renewable sources. The type and intensity of environmental impacts always varies depending on the specific technology used, the geographic location, and a number of other factors. According to the 2012 estimate by the Global Footprint Network, ecological footprint of humanity exceeds the Earth's bio-capacity, with humans currently using the equivalent of 1.5 planets.Thus, more emphasis has to be made on the environmental impacts of human activities.
The sun provides a tremendous resource for generating clean and sustainable electricity without toxic pollution or global warming emissions. The potential environmental impacts associated with solar power can vary greatly depending on the technology:
- Environmental Impacts of Solar Power (UCSUSA.com)
- Environmental Impacts of Concentrating Solar Power (CSP)
- Recycling of Solar Products
Large-scale dam hydropower projects are often criticized for their impacts on wildlife habitat, fish migration, and water flow and quality. However, small, run-of-the-river projects are free from many of the environmental problems associated with their large-scale relatives because they use the natural flow of the river, and thus produce relatively little change in the stream channel and flow. The dams built for some run-of-the-river projects are very small and impound little water—and many projects do not require a dam at all. Thus, effects such as oxygen depletion, increased temperature, decreased flow, and rejection of upstream migration aids like fish ladders are not problems for many run-of-the-river projects. Assessment of the environmental impacts of a specific hydropower facility requires case-by-case review.
- Hydro - Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
- Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
- Environmental Protection Agency: Electricity from Hydropower - Environmental Impacts
- Foundation for Water and Energy Education - How a Hydro Project Affects a River
- Environment Assessment Related to Micro-hydro Power (MHP) Projects Ethiopia
Biofuels: In the view of the current food versus fuel debate, smallholder farmers have to make decisions on the use of their resources.
Biogas: In many regions of the world, the consumption of firewood exceeds natural regrowth. This leads to deforestation and degradation of forests and woodlands with adverse effects on climate, water budget, soil fertility and natural products supply. Biogas is one of the solutions to this problem, because it substitutes firewood as a fuel and helps sustaining favourable soil conditions. It is also an important contribution to the mitigation of the global greenhouse effect.
- Biogas - Costs and Benefits
- Environmental Frame Conditions of Biogas Technology
- Carbon Markets for Biogas Digesters - Emission Reduction of Environmental Impacts
- Biogas Basics - The Benefit of Biogas Technology
- Environmental Frame Conditions of Biogas Technology
Although wind power plants have relatively little impact on the environment compared to fossil fuel power plants, concerns have been raised over the noise produced by the rotor blades, visual impacts, and deaths of birds and bats that fly into the rotors (avian/bat mortality).
- Wind Energy - Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
- WINDEIS: Wind Energy Development Environmental Concerns
Although none of the eight Millennium Development Goals specifically address cooking energy, its importance was acknowledged in later documents. Efficient cooking energy provision is having an environmental impact and supports Goal 7: ENSURE ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY.
- Facts on Cooking Energy - Cooking Energy and the Millennium Development Goals
- Simplified Result Chain of Most Improved Cookstoves Interventions
Environmental aspects include all the adverse side effects of transport on the environment, including air and water pollution, noise, vibration, visual impacts, social impacts and waste disposal. Transport is one of the key sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In order to effectively reduce global GHG emissions, developing cities with dramatically increasing populations and emissions will have to address climate change issues and contribute to its mitigation.
Cross Cutting Issues
Construction and operation of transmission Portal:Grid interconnections, and the power plants that feed them, have impacts (both positive and negative) on the local, and sometimes regional and global environments.
„Agriculture and food consumption are identified as one of the most important drivers of environmental pressures, especially habitat change, climate change, water use and toxic emissions“ (report of the working group of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP))
- Microenergy-Systems and Agriculture
- Greenhouse-Gas Emissions from the Production and Processing of Food
Battery Charging Systems
The wide-spread, short-term use of automotive batteries for rural electricity supply is likely to cause serious environmental pollution problems from lead contamination in the future.
- Global Footprint Network. Retrieved from: http://www.footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/GFN/page/world_footprint/
- Environmental Impacts of Solar Power (UCSUSA.com): http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/our-energy-choices/renewable-energy/environmental-impacts-solar-power.html
- Small Hydropower Systems: http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy01osti/29065.pdf
- Environmental Protection Agency: http://www.epa.gov/cleanenergy/energy-and-you/affect/hydro.html
- WINDEIS: Wind Energy Development Environmental Concerns, http://www.windeis.anl.gov/guide/concern/index.cfm
- Facts on Cooking Energy: https://energypedia.info/wiki/Facts_on_Cooking_Energy#Cooking_Energy_and_the_Millennium_Development_Goals_.28MDGs.29