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KLIMAFORSK-Stort program klima

Footprint and Impacts of Renewable Energy: Pressure on Lands Under Growth

Alternative title: Fotavtrykk og innvirkning av fornybar energi: løsninger for arealer under press

Awarded: NOK 25.4 mill.

The FIREPLUG project will address two key societal challenges: how to manage the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy as a response to climate change, and how to minimize the effects of land use change from renewable energy on biodiversity and ecosystem services. Hydro, wind and solar power are important for green energy production but future planning needs a better understanding of the tradeoffs among these different options. Our project team is a collaboration among three research institutions, five environmental groups, and a government authority responsible for concessions. Our project activities are organized around seven topics. First, we will work with stakeholders to develop alternative scenarios of renewable energy development that incorporate societal concerns. Scenarios will explore tradeoffs between upgrading or building of new facilities, choices among different locations and sizes for hydropower and wind power projects, and different spatial patterns for electricity grids. Second, we will calculate land use from different scenarios with new spatial tools to estimate the actual area requirements in land and freshwater habitats. Third, we will calculate impacts for carbon budgets from construction activities and effects on carbon storage and sequestration in natural systems. Fourth, we will investigate biodiversity impacts by modeling spatial impacts of renewable energy on species and habitats of conservation concern. Fifth, we will combine our model results with the tools of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to assess different tradeoffs over the lifespan of energy facilities. Sixth, we will develop visualizations a planning tool for Consensus-Based Siting (ConSite) to determine how alternative scenarios address technical needs while protecting biodiversity. Last, we will identify economic incentives for our best scenarios, and will work with stakeholders to develop new policy recommendations for decision-makers in Norway.

Our project addresses two key scientific challenges: i) to manage a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy to address climate change, and ii) to minimize the effects of land use change from renewable energy on biodiversity and ecosystem services. Hydro, wind and solar power are key to green energy production but future planning needs a better understanding of the tradeoffs among different options. Our collaborative team includes three research institutions (NINA, NTNU, and CICERO), five NGO environmental groups, and a government authority (NVE). Our project is structured as 7 integrated work packages (WP). In WP1, we will develop alternative scenarios of renewable energy development informed by stakeholder and societal values. Scenarios will explore tradeoffs between upgrading vs. building of new facilities, small vs. large-scale hydropower projects, siting of wind turbines in different habitats, and building electricity grids in networks vs. corridors. In WP2, we will assess impacts of land use from different scenarios with new spatial tools to evaluate area requirements in land and freshwater habitats. In WP3, we will address impacts on carbon budgets by evaluating energy effects on carbon storage and sequestration in natural systems. In WP4, we will investigate biodiversity impacts by modeling spatial impacts of energy on species and habitats of conservation concern. In WP5, we will use our model results in Life Cycle Assessment to assess temporal and spatial tradeoffs across the lifespan of energy facilities. In WP6, we will develop visualizations of alternative scenarios with Consensus-Based Siting as a planning tool to incorporate technical needs while safeguarding biodiversity. In WP7, we will identify economic incentives for our best scenarios, and to develop new policy recommendations for decision-makers in Norway. Our interdisciplinary project will provide valuable new solutions for renewable energy and land under pressure in Norway.

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KLIMAFORSK-Stort program klima