The Conservancy’s team in the Mojave Desert, for instance, mapped potential solar development sites in areas already affected by human activities, keeping unspoiled habitat intact and off-limits to protect threatened species such as the desert tortoise.
In places like Kansas’s grasslands and upstate New York, we are helping utilities site wind facilities to get the maximum energy benefit while keeping them out of the critical pathways of migratory birds and bats. And we are bringing this same planning expertise to Latin America, China, Africa and elsewhere.
The shift to smarter, clean energy resources also takes some out-of-the-box thinking. The Conservancy is financing practical science research through its Nature Net Science Fellows program, which provides two-year grants and mentors to recent Ph.D. graduates at leading universities. The program is helping people like scientist Haoran Yang, who is producing nanocrystals to construct a material that can capture waste heat from industrial processes—and someday soon, help convert it back into usable electricity.
Other breakthroughs include improvements in the biofuels field. For a long time, algae production has been studied for its potential to provide sustainable renewable energy, but current production inefficiencies have prevented its use. To address this issue, a NatureNet Fellow working at the University of Pennsylvania and the NASA Ames Research Center in California is looking at how giant clams harvest energy from algae. Scientists are now working to mimic this process with technology that could revolutionize the use of renewable energy from algal biofuels.
We need pioneering science. But we also need to move the needle on low-carbon strategies. Through our 50-state strategy, each of the Conservancy’s local chapters is advancing climate solutions that make sense in that state. In New York, we are working with the state to transform the energy grid into a “smart grid” that better integrates home solar and other renewables. In Connecticut, we are supporting a “green bank” that will finance the use of renewable energy technologies in building projects.
We are also deploying grass-roots approaches to climate threats, working closely with individual landowners. In Louisiana and Arkansas, we are helping farmers put trees back on marginal, unprofitable farmlands, thus mitigating flooding and absorbing more carbon dioxide. In Iowa, Ohio, Michigan and other Midwestern states, we are collaborating with farmers to help reduce fertilizer use—a major source of greenhouse gas emissions—on millions of acres by using farming techniques that improve soil health and increase how much carbon the soil itself can store.