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Solar PV could power the world without impacting environment, says WWF

17th Jan 2013

A new report released by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has shown that if all the world's electricity was to be generated solely by solar photovoltaics, only a tiny percentage of land would be taken up by panels.

The non-profit environmental organisation - perhaps better known for its animal conservation projects - reveals in Solar PV Atlas: Solar Power in Harmony with Nature that widespread adoption of solar PV technology would not conflict environmental goals or encroach upon human space.

How does the WWF demonstrate this? What they have done is put together hypothetical scenarios in which 100 per cent of projected electricity demand for 2050 comes from solar PV in each of six countries.

They were Indonesia, Madagascar, Mexico, Morocco, South Africa, Turkey and the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

These areas were chosen because they were geographically diverse and yet all ripe for large-scale development of solar panel systems, which the WWF calls 'a well-established, commercially available and reliable technology'.

The report, released yesterday (January 16), shows that in each country scenario, the total land mass required to support the solar PV infrastructure would be less than one per cent. That's including rooftops.

The research shows that you needn't cover every available surface to reach a hugely significant milestone like powering a whole country with solar panels.

Leader of the WWF's Global Climate and Energy Initiative Samantha Smith said in a statement that as the impact of climate change is felt by more and more parts of the world, it was more important than ever to move towards "well sited, responsibly operated renewable energy power facilities".

Lettermieke Mulder, vice president for sustainability at report co-author First Solar, said that research showed solar power plants had significant benefits for the environment, "including a low carbon footprint and a short energy pay-back time".

"Replacing existing grid electricity with PV arrays significantly reduces greenhouse gas and heavy metal emissions as well [as] water usage," Mr Mulder added.

Meanwhile, representatives from up to 150 countries are currently gathered in Abu Dhabi for the World Future Energy Summit. French president Francois Hollande got things going with a rousing keynote speech.

"If we don't act, if we don't do anything, if we don't invest anything, we can be sure that we will have a catastrophe very soon," said President Hollande, quoted by the Guardian.

He spoke of the importance of having the "confidence to invest in new energy", and spoke generally of the need to embrace renewable energy.

Posted by Mike Peacock

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