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Skip to 0 minutes and 12 seconds Then we go to our second module. In the second module what is central are the spatial consequences. Now we have seen the last time that there are spatial consequences if we shift towards renewable energy. But how big are these consequences, actually? In principle, if we think about the amount of energy that is available there is not such a big problem. There is quite a lot of energy available on the Earth. If we look at the amount of energy that the Earth receives from the sun it is vast. It is such a vast number that it’s more than a thousand times as much as what we as human species actually need.

Skip to 0 minutes and 44 seconds And the Earth itself also provides us with energy, geothermal energy, tidal energy. So essentially the only question we really have is how can we tap into this energy. And that is more of a challenge. The energy is there. But actually getting energy that we can use out of that is a bigger problem. Now, even that problem might not seem so big. Because under ideal circumstances it might just be possible to actually get the amount of energy that we need out of the surface area that is about 650,000 square kilometres. That’s about the size of Turkey. And now Turkey is a fairly big country. But of course, if you measure that on the scale of the entire planet it seems doable.

Skip to 1 minute and 29 seconds But this is a perfect world. And of course, we’re not living in a perfect world. The actual world we live in means that we require energy for a lot of different things, not just electricity that you can get from solar panels. We actually also need energy for heat, for cooling, and especially we need it at very different places at very different times. And this combination makes that it’s not that easy as it might seem in an ideal world. It is always good to take an example. And therefore, I chose an example which is the city I live in myself, the city of Groningen. The city of Groningen is not a very big city. It has about 200,000 inhabitants.

Skip to 2 minutes and 9 seconds But nevertheless, it’s a city. And the city of Groningen is also interesting because it has some ambitions. The politicians decided a few years ago that they wanted to be entirely energy neutral. And they wanted to do that first in 2025, but then considered that a bit fast. So it’s now 2035. But such an ambition has quite some consequences. And if we look at the region where I live the circumstances are that wind energy might well be the most efficient way of actually getting energy, renewable energy. Because wind energy per square metre will generate the most energy. So that would, from a spatial perspective, be the ideal choice. Now there’s, of course, a lot of assumptions related to this.

Skip to 2 minutes and 53 seconds For example, with regards to that fact that we don’t just need electricity. We also need heat. We need fuel. So there’s a little bit more than just electricity and wind energy. Also the wind doesn’t always blow. But let’s keep it simple. If we assume that we will actually do this whole energy neutral thing with wind energy how much space would we need? Around Groningen there’s a province. And the province has the size of about 2,500 square kilometres, not very big. But nevertheless, we would need 75% of it to just fuel the city of Groningen. But only one third of the province is living in the city of Groningen.

Skip to 3 minutes and 30 seconds And also this is one of the least densely populated areas of the Netherlands. It is showing us that actually fueling, in the sense of energy, the Netherlands is going to be a vast challenge. And it’s not just a case in the Netherlands. And if we don’t want to do something like this, and I safety assume that we’re not going to do this, we also start to understand that in densely populated areas the shift towards renewables is a big one. It’s a big one mostly because that is exactly where we need the energy. But there is not so much space. And we need a lot of space. But also it’s a challenge because we need space for buffering.

Skip to 4 minutes and 11 seconds The wind doesn’t always blow. The sun doesn’t always shine. How are we going to make sure that energy security will remain? And also, what kind of networks will we build? It’s not as easy. We can’t just depend on the existing pipelines, or the existing electricity grid. It will have vast consequences. And these consequences, as we have already seen before, will also have consequences within society, societal resistance with regards to whether we actually want this, valuable landscapes that might be affected within cities, also within the rural areas. How will we deal with these? How will we respond? We have already seen a lot of examples where people are resisting against renewable energy.

Skip to 4 minutes and 55 seconds But this resistance is only against the first couple of percentages of renewables. If we really make a shift the consequences will be big. And we need to think about what we think of these consequences and how to deal with them.

Spatial consequences of renewables

In this video, Christian discusses and illustrates the spatial consequences of integrating renewable energy production in the landscape. Mostly, he discusses the magnitude of the challenge that this integration poses.

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This video is from the free online course:

Solving the Energy Puzzle: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Energy Transition

University of Groningen