Talk Looks At Ecological impact Of Renewable Energy Development

As the United States takes steps to address climate change, renewable energy development (particularly wind and solar) has become a critical component in reducing the nation’s carbon emissions. But as with many things, these new energy options bring their own sets of problems….and opportunities.

This is the message being shared by Dr. Steve Grodsky, assistant professor of natural resources and the environment at Cornell University and an Assistant Unit Leader with the U.S. Geological Survey’s New York Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. He will be giving a special presentation for the public Thursday evening at 7 p.m. (MST) at the MonDak Heritage Center entitled “Ecology of the energy transition: plants, animals, people, and planet”. This presentation is being hosted by Sidney’s USDA ARS Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory.

The social and environmental impacts of energy development are many, including for new renewable projects. As an example, Dr. Grodsky cites large utility-scale solar developments which are expected to require vast swaths of land, raising questions about their effects on wildlife, vegetation, soils and people that currently depend on those landscapes.

Grodsky specializes in the emerging field of renewable energy ecology. He and his collaborators conduct solutions-oriented research that tackles pressing environmental and social issues and guides a sustainable and just energy transition. Much of Grodsky’s recent research has focused on best management practices for solar energy development and its effects on birds, pollinators, and agro-ecology and crop production.

He is currently collaborating with Sidney Agricultural Research Service Scientist and Pollinator Specialist Dr. Joshua Campbell, in a national study directed by Dr. Grodsky looking at large solar arrays and their impact on the soil, surrounding vegetation, wildlife, and, of course, pollinators. An interesting component of that larger study involves the use of “environmental DNA,” a new molecular approach that collects and processes billions of small strands of animal and plant DNA that has been excreted or otherwise deposited in the soil. The approach allows researchers to rapidly determine the ecology of an area – its existing and historical plant and animal biodiversity above- and below ground – and to track any changes arising from energy development.

Please join us for an interesting and pertinent discussion this Thursday at 7 p.m .at the MonDak Heritage Center, Sidney.


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