Geothermal power with least land use, second to nuclear power by 2030

Alexander Richter 26 Aug 2009

The land-use impact to U.S. habitat types of new energy development resulting from different U.S. energy policies by 2030 is topic of a recent academic article, which sees geothermal using the least amount of land per generated power.

… so the recent report by academics by Northwestern University, supported by the Nature Conservancy and published as open-source article on PLoS ONE.

When reading through all the scientific details, the actual results are fascinating. They prove the point of land use being a strong argument for geothermal energy, being the renewable energy technology using the least land space (excluding nuclear power here).

The authors “illustrate the land-use impact to U.S. habitat types of new energy development resulting from different U.S. energy policies. We estimated the total new land area needed by 2030 to produce energy, under current law and under various cap-and-trade policies, and then partitioned the area impacted among habitat types with geospatial data on the feasibility of production.”

“The land-use intensity of different energy production techniques (i.e., the inverse of power density, as measured in km2 of impacted land in 2030 per terawatt-hour per year, varies over three orders of magnitude (Fig. 3). Nuclear power (1.9–2.8 km2/TW hr/yr), coal (2.5–17.0 km2/TW hr/yr) and geothermal (1.0–13.9 km2/TW hr/yr) are the most compact by this metric. Conversely, biofuels (e.g., for corn ethanol 320–375 km2/TW hr/yr) and biomass burning of energy crops for electricity (433–654 km2/TW hr/yr) take the most space per unit power. Most renewable energy production techniques, like wind and solar power, have intermediate values of this metric.”

For the full article and the source for the provided chart, please use and cite the actual article, link below.

Source: McDonald RI, Fargione J, Kiesecker J, Miller WM, Powell J (2009) Energy Sprawl or Energy Efficiency: Climate Policy Impacts on Natural Habitat for the United States of America. PLoS ONE 4(8): e6802. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0006802 (PLoS ONE)