“The European researchers behind the new study do an in-depth analysis of how much land and sea area it would take to implement the Net Zero by 2050 roadmap devised by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in 2021. The IEA outlines an energy transition trajectory to cut global carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels to zero by 2050. The Net Zero goal is to keep the increase of global average temperature below the threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius above the late 19th-century baseline. “This calls for nothing less than a complete transformation of how we produce, transport and consume energy,” notes the IEA.
The Scientific Reports study finds that implementing the IEA’s roadmap requires that much of the world’s agricultural and wild lands be sacrificed to produce energy. Biofuels, both liquid and solid, are especially egregious destroyers of the landscape. On the other hand, the energy source that spares the most land is nuclear power. In addition, electricity produced by fission reactors is not intermittent the way that vastly more land-hungry solar and wind power are.”
“wind and solar projects occupying massive amounts of land increasingly get NIMBY pushback from disgruntled neighbors. Energy analyst Robert Bryce, author of A Question of Power: Electricity and the Wealth of Nations (2020), has compiled a database showing that nearly 500 renewable energy projects have been rejected or restricted over the past decade.
The European researchers calculated that nuclear power plants sited on just 20,800 square km (8,000 square miles) of land could supply all of the carbon-free electricity demanded in 2050. That’s less land than is occupied by the state of Vermont.
Over at Tech Xplore, study co-author and energy conversion researcher at Norwegian University of Science and Technology Jonas Kristiansen Nøland points out that “the spatial extent of nuclear power is 99.7% less than onshore wind power—in other words, 350 times less use of land area.” He adds, “An energy transition based on nuclear power alone would save 99.75% of environmental encroachments in 2050. We could even remove most of the current environmental footprint we have already caused.””