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Cutting carbon

Cut carbon, save seals: five unexpected benefits of green energy

seal in the ocean

We need to cut carbon to fight climate change. But swapping coal for green energy has some surprising extra benefits too. Here are five:

1. Scrapping all coal plants would save enough water for one billion people

Burning coal uses up a lot of water. And we mean a lot. A report commissioned by Greenpeace found that coal power plants around the world use enough water to supply the needs of one billion people. And Greenpeace believe that nearly half of planned new coal plants are in areas already suffering 'water stress' – where water use is having a significant impact on ecosystems.

So that’s another reason to champion the turn away from coal, especially now that green energy is so cheap. We’d like to see countries scrap coal, cut carbon emissions and save a lot of water too.

Dovestone reservoir in the Peak District

2. Offshore wind farms can help restore fish stocks

Offshore wind farms are an essential part of our green energy future. And there is evidence that they can actually have a positive effect on Europe’s under-pressure fish stocks.

Wind farm at Dovestone reservoir in the Peak District

Safety regulations mean that offshore wind farms effectively become Marine Conservation Zones, where fishing is prohibited. This allows fish in the area to develop to full size and stops the seabed from being damaged from trawler nets. Researchers - including scientists at the Technical University of Denmark - have discovered that fish populations can increase. And in the long run, that should benefit the fishing industry as well as the environment.

3. And they can even become seal-friendly 'reefs'

Even better news is that offshore wind farms can become man-made ‘reefs’, teeming with marine wildlife. The hard surface of the turbine under the water attracts barnacles and other crustaceans. These in turn attract fish and eventually their predators, creating a flourishing ecosystem.

baby seal

One study by an international team of researchers from Britain, Holland and the US found that wind farms in the North Sea were becoming a perfect breeding ground for seals, who can find plenty of food swimming amidst the windmills. Now that certainly gets our seal of approval.

4. Biogas makes farming better

More and more farmers are generating carbon neutral energy thanks to ‘anaerobic digestion’. This involves turning organic waste (anything from mouldy veg to chicken poo) into biogas, via a process that works a bit like a cow’s stomach.

Icknield biogas farm

Small family farms can make a big contribution to the national grid and that’s great for the future of British agriculture. It’s also great for the environment. Digesters can make good use of food waste that might otherwise go to landfill, while the by-product of biogas is a nutritious and environmentally-friendly fertilizer for crops. So a biogas farm is a self-sustaining ‘circular’ system

5. Old coal mines could be turned into theme parks

So if we get rid of coal power, we’ve got to do something with all those old mines, haven’t we? Abandoned mines around the world have been used for all sorts of things, from computer server storage to farms for medicinal plants. There’s even a former salt mine in Romania that’s now an awesome underground theme park complete with ferris wheel and a lake with paddle boats.

Mine theme park in Romania

So could we say goodbye to coal and hello to subterranean roller coasters? We’d love to see it happen.