A new study compared the environmental impacts of the different types of renewable energy. Hydropower was found to do the most damage.
“We know that burning fossil fuels is damaging the environment and warming the climate,” said Luke Gibson from the University of Hong Kong. “But there are also dangers from the global proliferation of solar panels, wind turbines, and hydroelectric dams.”
The study compared the environmental impacts of hydropower, solar power and wind energy. The scientists found that hydropower does the most damage.
“Hydropower has degraded some of the most biologically rich habitats on our planet,” said William Laurance from James Cook University in Australia. “Hydro projects are such a disaster for tropical rainforests that I don’t consider them ‘green’ energy at all.”
While wind turbines and solar panels can also cause environmental harm, they do so on a much lower scale compared to hydropower.
In total, renewable energy accounts for a quarter of global electricity generation. Given the risks associated with each type of renewable energy source, it is critical to mitigate the environmental impacts of future renewable energy deployment, warn the scientists.
“We need to keep a close eye on these ‘green’ energy developments to ensure new projects don’t harm wildlife or sensitive habitats – particularly along migratory routes where wind turbines could kill many birds or bats,” said Gibson.
The scientists urge the global community to identify and mitigate the ecological impacts of renewable energy to ensure that “its future is truly green”.
Image credit: WorldFish via Flickr