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close this bookEnvironmental Handbook Volume II: Agriculture, Mining/Energy, Trade/Industry (GTZ, 1995, 736 p.)
close this folderMining and energy
close this folder43. Renewable sources of energy
View the document1. Scope
View the document2. Environmental impacts and protective measures
View the document3. Notes on the analysis and evaluation of environmental impacts
View the document4. Interaction with other sectors
View the document5. Summary assessment of environmental relevance
View the document6. References

3. Notes on the analysis and evaluation of environmental impacts

The main environmental consequences of renewable energy systems are the consumption of land area and the loss of plant and animal species and biotopes. Biomass utilization also involves solid waste, wastewater and air pollution.

The environmental consequences of renewable energy systems can be limited in quantity, but normally require qualitative analysis with due regard for avoidance effects (e.g., CO2 emissions) in comparison with nonrenewable energy sources. To evaluate the environmental impacts of any such system, one must begin with an analysis of the biotic (flora and fauna) and abiotic (water, soil, air) ecological factors. For the biotic domain, mapping and charting activities are necessary. For the abiotic range, water, air and soil samples should be analyzed according to standard techniques such as those described in DIN/EN and ISO standards, NIOSH standards, guidelines of the Association of German Engineers VDI, WHO recommendations, etc.).

The evaluation of environmental consequences is a deficitary matter in that, for example, no limit values can be quoted for the loss of animal species, biotopes, etc. Nor do any generally recognized standards of evaluation exist - quantitative or otherwise - for landscape impairment. The criteria need not always be as unequivocally quantifiable as "rarity" (e.g., as defined by international conventions within the pollutants' sphere of influence); it is also difficult to attach a particular value to consumed land area with allowance for alternative uses. For the abiotic domain, though, certain limit values and recommendations can be enlisted in connection with various types of pollution (wastewater, exhaust, noise).

To the extent available, effect-specific reference/limit values should be consulted for evaluating immissions (airborne pollutants, noise,...) as a means of anticipating the sensitivity (reaction) of existing and planned forms of utilization (housing, farming) to the projected impairment.

For all forms of renewable energy utilization, the importance of immissions and pollutant levels increases along with the size of the project.

In connection with the extraction of energy from biomass, any solid substances that are re-utilized instead of being treated as waste count as a positive effect that must be given due consideration.