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ERE1.7

Impacts and co-benefits of the energy transition on hosting ecosystems – implications and prospects for Natural Capital and Ecosystem Services

Over the last decade, the transition towards low-carbon and renewable energy systems (RES) has accelerated significantly around the world. This has been in response to both national and international policies as well as incentives promoting the decarbonisation of energy systems to meet climate change targets. However, the low-carbon energy transition has precipitated expansive land use or ecosystem change, recognised by the IPBES as the greatest drivers of ecosystem degradation. Subsequent impacts on biodiversity and related ecosystem processes have major implications for natural capital (NC) and ecosystem service (ES) provision within and beyond the hosting ecosystem.

The objective of this session is to pool ecological, technological and societal research and gather new evidence and insights from around the world on the effects of the low-carbon energy transition on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems relating to NC and ES. This session also aims to explore innovative methods to enhance the ecosystem sustainability of the low-carbon energy transition. Studies may (but are not limited to):
• Present the effects of different RES (e.g., solar energy, wind energy, biogas, smart and decentralised energy systems) on specific pools of NC (e.g., soil, water, atmosphere, habitat, biodiversity, biotic resources) and/or the provision of ES (e.g., nutrient cycling, local climate regulation, biomass production, pollination);
• Discuss the implications of the energy transition to the long-term sustainability of different hosting ecosystems (e.g., temperate grasslands, arid ecosystems, aquatic or marine systems) or human-made systems (e.g., arable land);
• Discuss the societal implications of increased RES (e.g., community acceptance of changing natural/semi-natural landscapes);
• Discuss the policy implications (at national or international level) and potential economic consequences of incorporating NC and ES in the land use decision-making process when planning for RES;
• Discuss the opportunities offered by different RES to enhance environmental co-benefits and ecological outcomes that support NC and ES;
• Present methods to maximise techno-ecological synergies that provide beneficial relationships between technological and ecological systems to increase the sustainability of RES.

We encourage abstracts based on empirical evidence or those that take a modelling or framework approach to present solutions to the sustainable integration of RES within local ecosystems.

Public information:

This session will discuss the impacts and opportunities brought about by the transition to low-carbon energy for natural capital and ecosystem services of hosting ecosystems. Presentations will cover bioenergy, wind energy and solar energy, and highlight potential land use conflicts and synergies between renewable energies, food production and environmental conservation.

Authors will showcase a variety of approaches to tackle these issues, including numerical modelling, in situ collection of empirical data and the valuation of ecosystem services. Studies will cover a wide geographical area, ranging from global scale analyses to regional and local studies in North America and Europe, and include a diverse range of ecosystems, from temperate grasslands to deserts and aquatic ecosystems.

This session should equip attendees with a broad overview of the energy-food-water-environment nexus, as well as provide more nuanced perspectives of the environmental implications of land use change for renewable energies.

The video links below provide a broad introduction to the session topic. The first covers the need and potential to embed positive ecological outcomes into energy systems decarbonisation, featuring industry and policy experts, as well as leading scientists in the field. The second showcases an educational field visit to a solar farm in England to engage school children in the climate and ecological emergencies through experiential learning. It also features short discussions of the broad environmental implications of solar energy development by researchers and policy experts.

Video links [please copy and paste the URL onto your browser]

Sustainable Energy Transition (7 min) [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HtUJJ7yRMOo]

Scientists, Children and Solar Energy: Lessons on the Climate and Ecological Crises (9 min) [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NpmphQUuV74]

Convener: Fabio CarvalhoECSECS | Co-conveners: Alexander CagleECSECS, Kathryn G. LoganECSECS, Olga TurkovskaECSECS
Presentations
| Tue, 24 May, 08:30–10:00 (CEST)
 
Room -2.31
Public information:

This session will discuss the impacts and opportunities brought about by the transition to low-carbon energy for natural capital and ecosystem services of hosting ecosystems. Presentations will cover bioenergy, wind energy and solar energy, and highlight potential land use conflicts and synergies between renewable energies, food production and environmental conservation.

Authors will showcase a variety of approaches to tackle these issues, including numerical modelling, in situ collection of empirical data and the valuation of ecosystem services. Studies will cover a wide geographical area, ranging from global scale analyses to regional and local studies in North America and Europe, and include a diverse range of ecosystems, from temperate grasslands to deserts and aquatic ecosystems.

This session should equip attendees with a broad overview of the energy-food-water-environment nexus, as well as provide more nuanced perspectives of the environmental implications of land use change for renewable energies.

The video links below provide a broad introduction to the session topic. The first covers the need and potential to embed positive ecological outcomes into energy systems decarbonisation, featuring industry and policy experts, as well as leading scientists in the field. The second showcases an educational field visit to a solar farm in England to engage school children in the climate and ecological emergencies through experiential learning. It also features short discussions of the broad environmental implications of solar energy development by researchers and policy experts.

Video links [please copy and paste the URL onto your browser]

Sustainable Energy Transition (7 min) [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HtUJJ7yRMOo]

Scientists, Children and Solar Energy: Lessons on the Climate and Ecological Crises (9 min) [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NpmphQUuV74]

Tue, 24 May, 08:30–10:00

Chairpersons: Fabio Carvalho, Olga Turkovska

08:30–08:32
Introduction

08:32–08:42
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EGU22-1993
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ECS
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solicited
Gemma Delafield et al.

As countries transition to net zero emissions, the number of land use conflicts between energy generation, nature conservation and food production are expected to rise. Models typically restrict energy deployment from land deemed as providing high societal value (e.g. National Parks, peatland) when exploring future energy pathways to resolve these conflicts. This study applies the spatially explicit ADVENT-NEV model to Great Britain to determine the lower-bound of the implied value being placed on the land excluded. It compares the ‘optimal’ locations for new renewable energy when strict restrictions are applied against those identified when a natural capital approach is used.

When energy development is restricted from Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, National Parks and high-grade agricultural land the cost of the energy system is shown to increase by approximately 10%. Even limited bioenergy crop expansion is unfeasible if strict restrictions are applied. In particular, results indicate that such restrictions would not be compatible with net zero emissions targets. These restrictions also result in an increase in the spatial footprint of solar farms, wind farms and bioenergy power stations by up to 13.4%, 79.6% and 15.8% respectively.

Incorporating the valuation of ecosystem services into renewable energy modelling provides a more nuanced approach than a binary exclusion, highlighting how strict restrictions may not always be best for society. The natural capital approach makes trade-offs between energy, nature conservation and food production more explicit for decision-makers allowing them to take a more holistic approach.

How to cite: Delafield, G., Day, B., Smith, G., and Holland, R.: Resolving land use conflicts between renewable energy, nature protection and food production, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-1993, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu22-1993, 2022.

08:42–08:49
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EGU22-170
Anita Shepherd et al.

Our research is aligned to the expansion of energy crops with a view to future developments in greenhouse gas removal and we need to ensure that does not have a detrimental effect on the surrounding environment.

Miscanthus is a sustainable bioenergy crop which is wildlife-friendly and will grow on otherwise unproductive land. Mature crops do not require fertilizer thereby ensuring low nitrous oxide emissions. Miscanthus x giganteus (M x g) as a sterile clone, has been propagated vegetatively, with relatively high establishment costs and low multiplication rates. New seed-propagated hybrids, with the potential of upscaling the crop for greater provision, are being readied for market and in crop trials over Europe.

Projections are presented from research involving the international GRACE project and the Supergen SUMMER project. We determine the potential for miscanthus growth and environmental impact, using the hybrids under 21st century climate conditions. We show yield projections which have been modelled using crop trial data across different European countries together with simulations from the MiscanFor model for agricultural soil carbon sequestration and water deficit.

How to cite: Shepherd, A., Awty-Carroll, D., Kam, J., Ashman, C., Magenau, E., Martani, E., Kontek, M., Ferrarini, A., Amaducci, S., Davey, C., Al Hassan, M., Jurišić, V., Lamy, I., Lewandowski, I., de Maupeou, E., McCalmont, J., Trindade, L., Kiesel, A., Clifton-Brown, J., and Hastings, A. and the Anita Shepherd1: Comparing miscanthus hybrids – growth and environmental impacts, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-170, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu22-170, 2022.

08:49–08:56
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EGU22-8855
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ECS
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Highlight
Steef Hanssen et al.

Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) based on purpose-grown lignocellulosic crops can provide negative CO2 emissions to mitigate climate change, but its land requirements present a threat to biodiversity. Here, we analyse the implications of crop-based BECCS for global terrestrial vertebrate species richness, considering both the land-use change (LUC) required for BECCS and the climate change prevented by BECCS. LUC impacts are determined using global-equivalent, species-area relationship-based loss factors. We find that sequestering 0.5–5 Gtonne of CO2 per year with lignocellulosic crop-based BECCS would require hundreds of Mha of land, and commit tens of terrestrial vertebrate species to extinction. Species loss per unit of negative emissions decreases with: i) longer lifetimes of BECCS systems, ii) less overall deployment of crop-based BECCS, and iii) optimal land allocation, i.e., prioritising locations with lowest species loss per negative emission potential, rather than minimising overall land use or prioritising locations with lowest biodiversity. The consequences of prevented climate change for biodiversity are based on existing climate response relationships. Our tentative comparison shows that for crop-based BECCS considered over 30 years, LUC impacts on vertebrate species richness may outweigh the positive effects of prevented climate change. Conversely, for BECCS considered over 80 years, the positive effects of climate change mitigation on biodiversity may outweigh the negative effects of LUC. However, both effects and their interaction are highly uncertain and require further understanding, along with analysis of additional species groups and biodiversity metrics. We conclude that factoring in biodiversity means lignocellulosic crop-based BECCS should be used early to achieve the required mitigation over longer time periods, on optimal biomass cultivation locations, and most importantly, as little as possible where conversion of natural land is involved, looking instead to sustainably grown or residual biomass-based feedstocks and alternative strategies for carbon dioxide removal.

How to cite: Hanssen, S., Steinmann, Z., Daioglou, V., Cengic, M., van Vuuren, D., and Huijbregts, M.: Global implications of lignocellulosic crop-based BECCS for terrestrial vertebrate biodiversity, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-8855, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu22-8855, 2022.

08:56–09:03
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EGU22-10036
Luis Ramirez Camargo et al.

Brazil is the global frontrunner in the production of sugarcane ethanol. Strong national biofuels policies, a consolidated internal demand for ethanol for transportation purposes, and a global growing demand for sugar and ethanol have supported this development. The sugarcane ethanol industry has contributed to economic growth, technological progress, job creation and is among the key strategies for mitigating CO2 emissions in Brazil. However, the industry is also responsible for a wide range of undesirable impacts on land. Biodiversity loss, structural soil degradation, pollution, and depletion of water sources can result from the associated direct and indirect land-use change. We therefore assess the potential of a carbon capture and utilization pathway to increase the fuel production of this industry in a land-neutral way. 

The pathway combines the almost clear surplus CO2-stream from the ethanol fermentation process with H2 produced using wind and solar power to synthesize methanol. The change of use of land from sugarcane production to renewable electricity generation is an intensification step which allows to spare significant amounts of land.

To understand the implications of this pathway in terms of land-use and cost, we develop a spatio-temporal model to determine the cost-optimal system configuration, the resulting land effciency, and consequently the land sparing potential. The core of the model consists of a techno-economic optimization model that minimizes cost for a system that includes variable renewable electricity generation (wind and solar power), storage (electricity, CO2 and H2), electrolyzers and methanol synthesis installations for each one of the sugarcane ethanol production plants in the country. The optimization model relies crucially on two time-series which we derived specifically for each Brazilian ethanol plant based on a consolidated spatially explicit data set of sugarcane ethanol installations: first, individual time series of the CO2-streams from ethanol fermentation, and second multi-year time series of wind and solar power in hourly temporal resolution using ERA5 and ERA5-land reanalysis data. Furthermore, we extensively review costs of individual system components and derive footprints of Brazilian solar and wind power plants from satellite imagery.

The proposed pathway leads to a combined amount of ethanol and methanol that represents an increase of  43%-49% compared to the current output of the ethanol industry in energetic terms. This amounts to around 100 TWh of methanol that would be sufficient to cover the projected growth in Brazil biofuel demand until 2030. In contrast, if the same amount of energy would be provided by sugarcane ethanol, produced at the current average Brazilian sugarcane-to-ethanol land-use efficiency, an additional 23,000 km2 - 27,000 km2 of land would be required. This underlines the significant land sparing potential of the proposed pathway. 

How to cite: Ramirez Camargo, L., Castro, G., Gruber, K., Klingler, M., Turkovska, O., Wetterlund, E., and Schmidt, J.: Significant land-sparing potentials from implementing carbon capture and utilization for the Brazilian sugarcane ethanol industry, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-10036, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu22-10036, 2022.

09:03–09:10
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EGU22-1881
Leslie Saul-Gershenz et al.

We determined the bee species presence, abundance, and diversity at utility-scale ground-mounted solar development (USS) to assess the impact on desert pollinators and the services they provide to the plants in the communities in which they live, specifically, in the Mojave and Colorado Desert regions.  We used a matched transect control design to test whether pollinator populations have changed due to solar utility scale installations. Sixty to 90% of flowering plants require animal pollinators. The Mojave Desert represents a hotspot of bee biodiversity corresponding to its rich botanical diversity of 1512 species. Our study found 113 species in a severe drought year after five drought years (2011-2015). 42% were oligoleges, 10% were polylectic and 29% of the  lacked data on their floral diets. Included were 5 undescribed species in the families Apidae (Tetraloniella, Anthophora -Anthophoroides, Anthophorula,) and Halictidae (Lasioglossum [Dialictus]). In our transect study we found lower abundance, diversity and richness inside the solar installations. However, we did not find a significant effect of distance from solar installation at 2K for our one year study. The BVT traps represented 16% of the collected specimens and 58 species and cup traps represented 83% of traps, and captured 46.7% of the total specimens and 66 species.Of the total bees species captured and identified, 76% are ground-nesting species.

How to cite: Saul-Gershenz, L., Zavortink, T., Van Wyk, J., Ascher, J. S., and Kimsey, L.: Impact on native bees from utility-scale solar development in the Mojave and western Sonoran Deserts, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-1881, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu22-1881, 2022.

09:10–09:17
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EGU22-2180
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ECS
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Hollie Blaydes et al.

As solar photovoltaic make a greater contribution to the energy mix, there will be increasing land use change for solar parks. Land use change can affect biodiversity across spatial scales and opportunities to incorporate biodiversity benefits into the energy transition are increasingly being recognised. For example, solar parks could support insect pollinators through providing critical resources such as flowering plants. However, understanding of pollinator response to solar park developments is currently limited and empirical data are lacking. To address this knowledge gap, we surveyed bumble bees, butterflies and flowering plants between July and September across 15 solar parks in the UK. We also investigated the composition and connectivity of the landscapes surrounding each solar park using landcover data and a GIS, allowing us to explore the impacts of on-site floral resources and surrounding landscape characteristics on bumble bee and butterfly abundance and diversity. We found that bumble bee and butterfly biodiversity varied across solar parks, but overall butterflies were more than five times more abundant than bumble bees. Pollinator biodiversity was impacted by both on-site resources and landscape characteristics. However, characteristics of the floral resources on site appeared to be the most important factors, with increases in floral diversity, floral cover and vegetation height associated with increases in pollinator abundance and diversity. Our findings suggest that local and landscape scale factors affect pollinator biodiversity on solar parks, but solar parks that provide diverse and abundant flowering plants may be best placed to support pollinators. Incorporating this knowledge into existing and future solar park developments could promote benefits to insect pollinators alongside the energy transition.

How to cite: Blaydes, H., Potts, S., Whyatt, D., and Armstrong, A.: On-site floral resources and surrounding landscape characteristics impact pollinator biodiversity on solar parks, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-2180, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu22-2180, 2022.

09:17–09:24
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EGU22-4958
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Highlight
Hannah Montag and Tom Clarkson

There is currently a total of 750 large scale solar parks (>5MW) in the UK, with an installed capacity of approximately 7.3GW; this is likely to cover an area of land of around 14,500 ha. While the planning process for such developments is currently geared towards increasing biodiversity gain, there remains a large discrepancy between the way that solar farms are managed and the actual ecological enhancement achieved. With large scale solar parks being a critical part of meeting the targets within the Paris Agreement, it becomes increasingly important to understand how the construction of solar parks impacts local wildlife, where biodiversity net gain can be achieved and the obstacles in the way of maximising this biodiversity net gain.

This talk offers a perspective from a practitioner’s point of view; Clarkson & Woods have carried out ecological monitoring of over 100 operational solar farms since 2016, and have collated an extensive database of botanical data from operational solar arrays. We will present this botanical data based on over 2,000 recorded botanical quadrats and look at how various factors affect botanical diversity including land management approach, age of array and location of quadrat. A discussion of some of the obstacles and potential solutions to maximising biodiversity net gain will be presented based on our knowledge of solar farms in the UK.

How to cite: Montag, H. and Clarkson, T.: Long Term Ecological Monitoring of Large Scale Solar Parks in the UK, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-4958, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu22-4958, 2022.

09:24–09:31
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EGU22-7770
Adèle Remazeilles et al.

Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) is defined in the UK as ‘development that leaves biodiversity in a better state than before’ and involves an approach where land developers work with local governments, wildlife groups, landowners and other stakeholders in order to support local priorities for nature conservation. The Environment Act 2021 will set out a minimum 10% biodiversity net gain to be mandatory for most land developments and the gain will need to be calculated using the Natural England Biodiversity Metric. The terrestrial habitats listed within the Biodiversity Metric are based on the UK Habitat Classification system (UK Hab).

Solar park developments usually achieve high gains in biodiversity as they commonly lead to intensive arable land or improved grassland being restored to permanent grassland; further enhancements may include sowing of wildflower seed and application of conservation grazing/cutting. However, debate remains regarding classification of proposed habitat within solar parks, in particular, the shaded habitat beneath the panels. We argue that rather than this area being regarded as “lost” habitat, our data show that a variety of plant species can thrive. However, this varies from site to site and is dependent on the vegetation management regime implemented within the site. Site management varies from conservation grazed to intensively grazed, to completely unmanaged, to cut throughout every month to once every three years or with occasional shade / access strips. This extends to treatment of injurious weeds with some non-chemical treatments to other sites which are blanket sprayed with a glyphosate herbicide.

A data set of 30 operational solar parks which were monitored in 2020 were selected and a total of 523 botanical quadrats analysed in order to characterise the vegetation within solar parks (including beneath the panels) in terms of species composition and other UK Habitat Classification criteria such as habitat condition.

These results will be used to provide formal guidance for calculating BNG on solar farms for the solar industry and planning authorities. The proposed approach is being developed with input from Natural England, UK Hab and Solar Energy UK.

 

How to cite: Remazeilles, A., Montag, H., Carvalho, F., Parker, G., and Howell, B.: Applying Biodiversity Net Gain to solar parks in the UK, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-7770, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu22-7770, 2022.

09:31–09:38
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EGU22-6272
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ECS
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Giles Exley et al.

Floating solar photovoltaics (FPV) are deployed on aquatic systems worldwide as an alternative to ground- and roof-mounted installations. FPV installations represent a considerable water surface transformation, and the consequent threats and opportunities for hosting aquatic systems are poorly understood. Moreover, we must consider any impacts within the context of a changing climate, given FPV operational lifetimes.

Impacts on aquatic systems may be significant given that FPV can perturb two key drivers of water body function - wind shear stress and solar radiation intensity. The potential impacts of changes on water body function are wide-ranging. For example, FPV may beneficially reduce the occurrence of nuisance algal blooms or could detrimentally lead to anoxic conditions, leading to the release of heavy metals from bed sediments. However, impacts are likely to be highly water body-specific, dependent on deployment configuration and be contingent on future climate conditions.

To better understand FPV effects on aquatic ecosystem processes, which underpin ecosystem services, we extended an existing lake model to simulate FPV installations under future climate scenarios on a UK reservoir. We examined plausible changes to a range of meteorological variables, water temperatures, reservoir inflow and depth. We found that FPV alters key water quality properties, including water temperature and phytoplankton community composition. Depending on the conditions, the implications are positive or negative. Our analysis shows that FPV can partially mitigate the impacts of climate change by reducing water temperature. The extended lake model will help inform policymakers and practitioners on best practices for deploying FPV, minimising detrimental impacts and maximising co-benefits.

How to cite: Exley, G., Page, T., Folkard, A. M., Thackeray, S. J., Hernandez, R. R., and Armstrong, A.: Floating solar interactions with water bodies under climate warming, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-6272, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu22-6272, 2022.

09:38–09:45
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EGU22-8685
Wiebke Neumann et al.

The increasing demand of emission-free energy enhances the footprint of wind power on landscapes worldwide. Wind power establishments claim considerable areas given their establishment sites and connected infrastructure. Being a major (but late arriving) land-use actor, onshore wind power expands in a landscape context already shaped by other land uses, thereby becoming directly a competitor for area. Being at forefront within the European Union, Sweden in northern Europe has ratified ambitious environmental goals to meet net zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2045. This asks for substantial expansion in renewable energy sources nationwide, particularly of wind power. In practice, suggested future wind power establishments claim about 3.5% of the total national land surface in Sweden but higher shares in forest-dominated regions. Within the Swedish environmental strategy, forests, however, are key players to provide also other products and services to mitigate impacts of climate change as well as to preserve biodiversity. Notably, a land demand of about 3.5% by wind power is comparable to the share of all formally protected Swedish forestlands below the mountain forest border, which currently is heavily debated due to the experienced loss of forestland for wood biomass production. This makes wind power establishment in forest landscape a serious competitor for space and for meeting different forest goals.

Using Sweden as a case, we quantify the amount of forests in relation to their productivity, landownership (state, company or private) and nature conservation value that we expect to convert into wind power land following the recent national strategy for wind power expansion based on current wind power distribution in Sweden. Our preliminary results suggest a considerable conversion of productive forestland into wind power land, particularly in the southern boreal landscape. Preliminary findings also indicate landowner differ to which degree their productive forestland without conservational value likely become wind power land.  

Our results emphasized the need for regional context-specific landscape planning in order to allow for both forests development and utilization meeting different environmental goals, including wind power and other interests.

How to cite: Neumann, W., Bjärstig, T., Thellbro, C., and Svensson, J.: Footprint of large scale expansion of wind power in productive boreal forests – forests under a zero-emission strategy, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-8685, https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-egu22-8685, 2022.

09:45–10:00
Discussion