How Does Solar Energy Help Protect Biodiversity at Home and Abroad?
Alex "Solar Girl" Steele
May 22 was the International Day for Biodiversity
Last week communities around the world observed Biodiversity Day, a day sponsored by the United Nations to raise awareness about our planet’s critical need to maintain biodiversity in all ecosystems. This year, the theme was “We’re Part of the Solution”, to highlight the fact that people everywhere must come together and do their part to protect the planet. This theme is branching off last year’s; “Our Solutions are in Nature”, which emphasised the value of natural resources in helping us solve not only sustainable development challenges but also medical, ethical, and technological struggles. In keeping with the “part of the solution” theme, we want to talk about how the development of renewable energy such as solar is such a strong asset to the fight against biodiversity loss!
Before we jump into talking about how renewables help protect biodiversity, let’s define what it is. Biological diversity is defined as “a measure of variation at the genetic, species, and ecosystem level” according to the United Nations World Conservation Monitoring Center. Essentially, this is the biological variety of life around the world. Biodiversity is most rich in tropical regions, which cover only about 10% of the planet but are home to about 90% of the planet’s species! Warmer temperatures foster a broader growth and proliferation of life, allowing a rich and varied population of organisms to coexist together. Biodiversity is easiest to observe and measure in these warm climates, but it is present all over the world, and it is crucial for the longevity of the planet and all of the organisms living here, including humans!
Biodiversity helps the Earth’s natural systems function properly, so the planet can continue to provide clean air, water, and soil for us to thrive. Without biodiversity, our forests would struggle to produce oxygen and our groundwater would become contaminated much more easily. Crops and wild plants alike would struggle to survive without a variety of pollinators to spread their seeds across the land, and pests such as disease-carrying insects would run rampant without a range of animals to feed on them. These functions, known as ecosystem services, are critical for the survival of our planet and all the organisms on it. Without them, we would experience trophic cascades, mass extinctions, food and water crises, and eventually ecosystem collapse, which could harm or even kill millions of human beings.
Now that we know why protecting biodiversity is so important, we’ll cover the way renewables like solar do their part to prevent it’s degradation. By developing solar energy to offset our dependence on fossil fuels, we reduce the need for further oil and gas exploration in sensitive ecological areas such as the ocean, the arctic, and the tropics. Though fossil fuels are still a necessary portion of our energy mix, the more demand there is for renewables, the less aggressive development of fossil fuels we’ll need to meet our energy requirements. This will reduce the risk of oil spills and groundwater contamination from transporting and harnessing fossil fuels.
Clean power is absolutely a great way to offset the biological costs of fossil fuel production, but we also have to take into account potential negative externalities to biodiversity associated with renewables. Solar is leading the way in clean energy development, which is great! However, the space utility-scale solar requires to fulfill our hefty energy demands can cause threats to wildlife by disrupting and diminishing habitats, and the construction of solar infrastructure can also contribute to noise pollution. Of course, these risks are nowhere near as dangerous as those associated with fossil fuel production, but it is still important to be mindful of them as renewables grow to a majority of the energy matrix. This year, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature released guidelines on how to grow solar infrastructure in the most sustainable way possible!
If you’re passionate about ecology and you want to do your part to protect biodiversity, you should consider having solar installed on your home. A rooftop solar system does not detract from natural habitats, so it’s an excellent way to mitigate the demand for fossil fuels without having unintended impacts on the local ecosystem. Call up Solar Wolf Energy today to get started protecting biodiversity in your own backyard!