Climate Change Stories

Renewable Energy Transition

Accelerating a Clean and Green Future

View of several wind turbines on a West Virginia ridge top.
West Virginia wind farm Wind farm turbines situated on a ridge top in the Appalachian mountains of West Virginia. © Kent Mason

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What we do between now and 2030 will determine whether we slow warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius—the level scientists agree will avoid the worst impacts of climate change. A transition to renewable energy is good for people and the planet. It will mitigate climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improve human health and the environment by decreasing air and water pollution, and support jobs and economic development.

Mitigating the impacts of climate change to people and nature is a massive undertaking, involving countless partners, communities, funders, governments, and businesses. It also requires a rapid global buildout of renewable energy, and we are just at the beginning. We need at least a nine-fold increase in renewable energy production to meet the Paris Agreement goals and much more to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. The land-use footprint for this buildout will be enormous because renewable energy infrastructure requires a lot of land—especially onshore wind and large-scale solar installations.

How can we go smart to go fast?

Energy development has a long history of environmental impacts, community opposition, and stalled and canceled projects—a history that we cannot afford to repeat in the shift to renewable energy. Accelerating this transition requires a smart buildout, one that safeguards natural areas and socio-cultural values, and supports goals for climate, conservation, and communities.

The scale of the renewable energy buildout will intensify pressure on lands and waters in ways that could impact communities, ecosystems, and wildlife. Related social and environmental concerns could, in turn, slow the clean energy transition itself. That is why The Nature Conservancy believes that renewable energy buildout must go smart to go fast.

The good news is the world has an abundance of areas with high renewable energy development potential and low biodiversity value—many multiples more than what is needed to meet global climate goals. All 10 of the highest emitting countries have more than enough suitable areas—places like mine lands, brownfields, and marginal farmlands—where renewable energy development could make land assets productive again, support community and economic development, and provide new revenue streams for landowners.

But this will not happen on its own. By taking steps today for a clean and green buildout, the world can meet goals for climate, conservation, and communities.

Our Work in the U.S.

  • Aerial photo of reclaimed mine lands in Virginia.

    Collaborating for solar on former mine lands in Virginia

    One of the first utility-scale solar projects on former surface mines will be developed in the coalfields of Southwest Virginia. Read the News Release

  • Aerial view of a 5 rows of solar arrays surrounded by trees with a building in the center.

    Long Island Solar Roadmap

    A new report details how to advance clean energy development while safeguarding the places people value most. Tour Long Island's Opportunities

  • Photo of an electric vehicle at a charging station.

    Report Recommends Key Steps for Modernizing Maine's Electric Grid

    A stakeholder group has issued a set of nine consensus-based recommendations for steps to plan, build, and operate the electric grid that is needed to meet Maine’s climate and energy requirements. Get the story in Maine.

  • A ground solar panel beside a farm building.

    Choosing Clean Energy in Pennsylvania

    Advancing Clean Energy PA is an online community working to change the conversation surrounding clean energy, energy efficiency, and clean transportation. Join the conversation.

Energy News

  • Photo of transmission wires across a California landscape.

    Power of Place: Land Conservation and Clean Energy Pathways for California

    TNC's new study lays out pathways for protecting important natural and agricultural lands while creating a 100% clean energy future for California. Explore This Initiative

  • Solar panels in Nevada.

    Mining the Sun

    How states such as Nevada and West Virginia are reclaiming former mine lands with solar panels. Explore the Future of Solar

  • Photo of a wind turbine in a broad, flat Iowa field, with other turbines in background.

    Beyond Carbon-Free

    Guiding the renewable energy industry toward a sustainable and equitable clean energy transition. Read the Press Release

  • Wind turbines dot a shoreline at sunset.

    Energy Sprawl Solutions

    Interactive energy tool to visualize trade-offs between energy, carbon emissions and land use based on the world’s project energy needs. Uncover the Solutions

  • Solar panels adjacent to an elementary school in Antelope Valley.

    Minding the Gap: Energy Sprawl and Access in India

    Perspective on how India can achieve universal energy access while also protecting its critical habitats. Explore Renewable Work in India

Photo of an electric vehicle at a charging station.
An electric car charging in California. © Michael Simons