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Renewable energy and food supply: will there be enough land?


  • Nonhebel, Sanderine


The use of renewable energy sources like photovoltaic systems and biomass plantations require land to intercept incoming solar radiation. This implies that the total amount of energy that can be obtained from these sources is limited. Next to this land is also in use for other purposes, of which food production is the most important. The area required for both food and energy supply depends on one hand on the consumption and on the other on the production per m2. Large differences in both production and consumption are observed globally. In this analysis distinction is made in land use requirements in so-called 'poor' and 'rich' circumstances. It is shown that in poor circumstances there is not enough land to fulfill the needs for food and energy when biomass is used as and energy source. In the rich situation prospects seems to be better, but in that case a large-scale transformation is required of woodlands and forests into intensive energy crop plantations. When PV-systems are used, the land area required for energy is reduced to a large extent. Their large-scale implementation is not possible on the short term due to technical problems. It is concluded that in the near future energy from biomass is the most likely renewable energy source, however, this source cannot fulfill all the energy requirements. For the more distant future energy from PV-systems seems to have the largest potentials, however, implementation requires large changes in present energy infrastructure.

Suggested Citation

  • Nonhebel, Sanderine, 2005. "Renewable energy and food supply: will there be enough land?," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 9(2), pages 191-201, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:rensus:v:9:y:2005:i:2:p:191-201

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gerbens-Leenes, P. W. & Nonhebel, S., 2002. "Consumption patterns and their effects on land required for food," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(1-2), pages 185-199, August.
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