Ambitious low-carbon transitions are underway in many jurisdictions, requiring the large-scale expansion of renewable energy. Simultaneously, growing energy demand in emerging economies is being met with rapid energy development, with the declining costs of wind and solar technologies making them among the most competitive options. These recent developments suggest the potential for energy sprawl to be another significant driver of habitat and biodiversity loss globally. With this rapid growth of renewable energy, there is a pressing need to develop strategies for quantifying land use related impacts related to renewable energy development and integrating these impacts in renewable energy planning processes. In this talk, I will present results from studies that address this gap in three study regions. These studies examine how to simultaneously meet conservation and climate objectives in California; quantify the benefits and trade-offs of multi-criteria wind and solar siting in Africa; and estimate forest-loss due to large-scale hydropower siting in the Brazilian Amazon. Decision-support tools and frameworks resulting from these studies can help avoid or minimize the land and biodiversity impacts of renewable energy expansion necessary to meet climate change mitigation targets.
Grace Wu is a UC Presidents Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Davis. She is concurrently a David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellow with The Nature Conservancy and Berkeley Lab. Grace is broadly interested in the dynamics and drivers of land use change, land use policy, and advancing our ability to plan for sustainable, multi-use landscapes that protect biodiversity. Her prior and ongoing research applies interdisciplinary approaches to understand the impact of energy infrastructure on land use and conservation and to develop practical strategies for avoiding negative impacts. She holds a BA in Biology from Pomona College, MPhil in Evolutionary Genetics from University of Cambridge, and an MS and PhD in Energy and Resources from UC Berkeley.