Clean energy—renewable power that comes from the sun, water, wind, underground (geothermal), and biomass—comes from, and benefits, our environment. At the same time, the technologies we develop to transmit, deliver, and use clean energy can change our environment. Responsible clean energy development, including nuclear power, is top of mind for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to safely and securely reduce carbon emissions and address the threat of climate change.
DOE is working to maximize the benefits of clean energy for all, while minimizing and eliminating any negative environmental impacts resulting from clean energy deployment.
Clean Energy Benefits the Environment
Clean energy is good for the environment because it does not produce the harmful emissions that lead to climate change. Climate change—including extreme weather and sea-level rise—causes drought, wildfires, flooding, poverty and displacement, food insecurity, health risks, and species loss.
Clean energy technologies improve human health by reducing air pollution and water and soil contamination. A clean energy economy will lower rates of asthma, heart conditions, and other health issues related to climate change across the nation. It will also support our ecosystems—geographic areas made up of plants, animals, and other organisms that interact with each other and the physical environment—and help sustain life on Earth.
Energy-efficient processes, practices, materials, and products also benefit the environment, because energy efficiency is vital to decarbonizing the economy. Conserving energy, water, and materials strengthens our resources and reduces emissions.
While harnessing power from renewable energy resources eliminates carbon dioxide emissions, using biomass resources tackles additional environmental issues. Biomass is derived from plant- and algae-based materials, including food waste and forestry residue. Converting biomass into sustainable fuels for modes of transportation delivers the following environmental benefits:
- Controls erosion
- Improves water quality and quantity
- Increases biodiversity
- Stores carbon in soil.
Prioritizing Environmental Safety
When a construction crew breaks ground to build infrastructure, such as a wind turbine, solar farm, or manufacturing facility, they alter the environment: Soil shifts, bugs scatter, dust kicks up. The goal is to prevent harm in the process, as well as after clean energy deployment.
DOE takes steps to ensure that clean energy projects address potential environmental concerns before projects begin. This means considering the land at the project site, the safety of materials used, whether the materials are obtained sustainably, the safety of fish and wildlife, and more.
For example, using previously disturbed ground, like mine lands, as sites for clean energy projects will reduce the impact of these technologies on undeveloped lands and enable more land conservation, along with job creation and economic benefits for communities. And DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) funds research on recycling techniques for clean energy technologies, including batteries, wind turbine blades, and solar panels, that have reached the end of their useful life.
Learn about EERE's Work to Reduce Environmental Impacts of Clean Energy
News About Environmental Impacts of Clean Energy
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