Green energy; Bad for you?
There is no question that alternative, green methods of providing energy and power are one day going to have to replace the current fossil fuel method. Not only do fossil fuels have a limited lifespan, (another 80 years or so according to most estimates) but the amount of carbon dioxide produced by burning coal and extracting oil is increasing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere and warming the climate.
Despite current fossil fuel infrastructure, alternative energy methods like solar panels, wind turbines and bio-fuel are slowly gaining a foothold within the energy sector, although they still only account for less than two percent of the total global energy output.
Despite being championed as the future of energy production, there are health and biodiversity concerns with alternative methods, some of which are highlighted below.
Solar panels are the leader in green energy production and as such, large reflective fields of solar panels are springing up in all corners of the world. This would normally be seen as a positive step towards a cleaner future, except new research suggests it could be threat to bio-diversity. According to Mr Bruce Robertson, Research Associate, from Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan State University, solar panels could be a legitmate eco-conservative concern.
Mr Robertson has suggested that the solar panels' dark reflective surface could resemble water surfaces and confuse over 300 types of insect to deposit their eggs on the panels, instead of by the river side. In theory, this could lead to a reproductive failure which would have a knock-on adverse effect on the food chain.
"This research demonstrates that solar panels are a strong new source of polarized light pollution that creates ecological traps for many types of insect.
"This is of significant conservation importance given the radical expansion in solar energy development and the strong negative impacts of ecological traps on animal population," Mr Robertson said.
However, it's not all bad news for the solar industry, there is a solution - using non-polarizing white grids for the solar panels. These white grids would reduce the 'attractiveness' of such false insect habitats by applying what biologists call "habitat fragmentation".
Whether it's the Cape Wind or North Sea initiative, wind turbines are springing up in both an offshore and onshore capacity. An evolved version of the windmill, wind farms, provided there is a healthy wind, can power thousands of homes and are a key component in producing a fossil fuel-free infrastructure.
However, with wind farms littering the landscape near towns and villages, concerns have arisen about the adverse affects to local residents' health, with some residents reporting symptoms like headaches and insomnia. Despite some people reporting no ill-effects of living in close proximity to large turbines, they do emit a low frequency vibration, cause flickering light as the blade rotates, as well as producing a constant noise, which could account for physical affliction.
In a report in the Guardian newspaper, there are scientists who claim some biofuels cause more health problems than petrol and diesel.
The study found that the corn-based bioethanol, which is produced extensively in the US, has a higher combined environmental and health burden than conventional fuels.
Several other studies also highlighted that growing corn to make ethanol biofuels was responsible for driving up the price of food.
Using computer models developed by the US Environmental Protection Agency, the researchers found the total environmental and health costs of gasoline are about 71 cents (50p) per gallon, while an equivalent amount of corn-ethanol fuel has associated costs of 72 cents to $1.45, depending on how it is produced.
However there are hopes that the next wave of biofuels - created from organic waste and marginal land - will have half the combined health and environmental costs of standard gasoline and a third of current biofuels.
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