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Sustainability at a Cost – Wind and Solar Can Wreak Havoc on Animal Habitats



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Free, clean energy is everywhere, and with an increasing focus on sustainability worldwide, there have been notable advancements in recent years involving various approaches toward harnessing it.  However, a transition to sustainability is not always clear-cut, as even the ‘greenest' of efforts can come with a cost, with recent studies highlighting the havoc they can wreak upon animal habitats.

Turbulent Winds

At the forefront of controversial sustainability efforts are wind farms.  This is for a variety of reasons, which extend to include the vast areas of land required for installations, adverse health effects, harm toward certain animal habitats, and more.

More specifically, the aforementioned study now finds that elevated wind speeds and noise emissions are changing the habits of bats in the surrounding environment.

This may seem trivial initially, but it is important to remember that bats play an important role within their respective ecosystems, working not only as a means of ‘pest' control, but as effective pollinators and seed dispersion crucial for forest regeneration.  It is because of the important role that these airborne mammals play that they are often monitored and serve as early indicators of the health of local ecosystems.

While the habits of bats are being altered as the animals learn to avoid areas with turbines, the story changes when looking at non-local, migratory birds unfamiliar with present danger.  In a recent analytical look at the deaths of 871 birds at California wind/solar farms, researchers found that “…patterns in the geographic origin of fatalities suggested that migratory movements and nonmigratory movements, such as dispersal and nomadism, influence exposure to fatality risk for these birds.”  This was shown through data generated from the analysis of hydrogen isotopes in the feathers, allowing for researchers to determine where the bird originated from.

Cancelled Sustainability Endeavours

Out of an abundance of caution, the potential for damage to animal habitats has already resulted in various large-scale endeavors worldwide being canceled.  One example of this comes from Canada's Atlantic Coast in the Bay of Fundy – home of the world's largest tides, reaching as high at 53ft (16m).

With the scale of these tides, it seems this is the perfect location to establish tidal energy projects.  Unfortunately, such efforts have been met with significant push-back over the years from entities like the Department of Fisheries, which believes tidal turbines can potentially harm local wildlife.  This has culminated in large companies like Sustainable Marine Energy Canada pulling out of the region despite investing significant time and money into the project.

Potential Clean Energy Alternatives

It should be noted that although there are clear and present dangers associated with the various approaches being used today that are geared toward sustainable energy production, such efforts should not be abandoned altogether.  The potential harm done by wind, solar, and tidal installations remains a fraction of that done on the Earth and animal habitats by the use of fossil fuels.

With that being said, current approaches toward sustainability may soon be looked back upon as no more than a stop-gap on our path toward a truly green future.  If the following technologies can be perfected, this will surely be the case.

Hydrogen: Reserves of naturally occurring hydrogen were once thought to be extremely rare due to the element's proclivity for reaction with its environment.  New methods of detection has changed this notion, as we now believe there are stores of hydrogen hidden in the Earth that could potentially be tapped into.  Producing only water vapor as a byproduct when burned, these reserves – which are large enough to serve humanity's energy needs for generations to come – could represent our best path toward truly green energy.

Nuclear Fusion: Harnessing the power of the Sun is no easy feat.  For decades, this has not deterred scientists worldwide from mastering nuclear fusion.  Such monumental efforts continue to be made toward achieving this goal, as nuclear fusion is widely viewed as the ‘holy grail' of energy production.  It can be easily contained/shut down, creates minimal waste, and, most importantly, produces more energy than is put in – meaning unlimited power.

It should be noted that each of the above alternatives to existing clean energy solutions is not a sure thing.  While there have been various monumental breakthroughs in recent years involving ‘ignition' in nuclear fusion efforts, the technology is believed to be decades away from becoming commercially viable.

Industry Players

Wind is a wonderful source of clean energy, but with a growing list of other viable ‘green' approaches on the table, one must question whether it is the best path moving forward.  The following are each companies that are actively working to develop and building out solutions involving solutions for the future, like nuclear fusion, through strategic investments of their own.

*Figures provided below were accurate at the time of writing and are subject to change.  Any potential investor should verify metrics*

1. Cenovus Energy

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A Canada-based integrated oil and natural gas company, Cenovus Energy is also involved in the nuclear fusion space through its investment in General Fusion, a leading nuclear fusion technology firm.  While Cenovus's primary business focuses on hydrocarbon production, its involvement in nuclear fusion indicates a strategic interest in alternative and future energy technologies, which could be attractive for long-term investors looking at the evolving energy landscape.

2. Chevron

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Chevron, traditionally known for its operations in the hydrocarbon sector, has shown a progressive approach by investing in nuclear fusion technologies.  The company participated in a significant funding round for TAE Technologies, a private nuclear fusion startup.  This move signals Chevron's interest in diversifying its energy portfolio and being part of the future energy transformation, potentially offering a balanced investment option with both current relevance in the oil sector and future prospects in clean energy.

3. Alphabet

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Primarily recognized for its dominance in the digital and technology sectors, Alphabet has expanded its innovation horizon by investing in nuclear fusion technology.  The company was also part of the consortium that funded TAE Technologies and is collaborating with Tri Alpha Energy on fusion-related technological development.  Alphabet's involvement in nuclear fusion, although a smaller part of its overall business, demonstrates its commitment to cutting-edge technology and sustainability solutions, making it an intriguing option for investors interested in a tech giant with a hand in future energy innovations.

Joshua Stoner is a multi-faceted working professional. He has a great interest in the revolutionary 'blockchain' technology.