describes renewable energy development as “by far the largest potential new future use of rural lands” in the six-state area analyzed. Given the increasing demands for production of biofuel feedstocks in other areas of the United States, this is likely at least partly true nationally, in addition to the conversion of rural lands to suburban developments near metropolitan areas.
Large-scale production of algal biofuels in areas adjacent to land already developed for other energy sources could contribute to cumulative effects on land use, water supply, and biodiversity. Solar technologies in particular could place site-specific demands on these three factors that are similar in scale to those of algal biofuels: extensive land areas would be cleared of vegetation and maintained as such, with consequent impacts on biodiversity; solar thermal facilities require water for cooling; and all solar facilities require water for mirror or panel washing (BLM and DOE, 2010).
LCAs and cumulative-impact, ecosystem-service, and cost-benefit analyses each assess sustainability on a somewhat different scale and each has a role in assessing the overall sustainability of algal biofuel production systems (Figure 6-1). Therefore, the committee is not suggesting a specific cost-benefit analysis to aid decision-making processes. Instead, the committee proposes a stepwise framework that encompasses these tools at different stages of algal biofuel development (Figure 6-2) to aid the Department of Energy (DOE) in its decision-making process on sustainable development of algal biofuels. The framework
FIGURE 6-1 A diagram illustrating various tools for assessing sustainability at different scales.