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I found this article on the Scientific American website. It's about two years old, but I think it brought up an interesting point. Conventional wisdom is that densely-populated urban areas were better for the environment, but this article says suburbs could become the next bonanza for solar power, because of the greater area of roof space. What are your guys' thoughts?

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-solar-suburbia-the-way-to-power-modern-cities/
 

Robert.Boston

Model S VIN P01536
Moderator
I found this article on the Scientific American website. It's about two years old, but I think it brought up an interesting point. Conventional wisdom is that densely-populated urban areas were better for the environment, but this article says suburbs could become the next bonanza for solar power, because of the greater area of roof space. What are your guys' thoughts?

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-solar-suburbia-the-way-to-power-modern-cities/
Dense urban housing has many environmental positives or, put differently, suburban sprawl has numerous environmental negatives. There's a good, though slightly dated, survey article on this issue. Urbanites walk more, use less energy, consume fewer resources, and impact fewer acres of natural habitat. While it's true that suburban homes are better able to produce their own power, I don't think that fully compensates for the other downsides.
 
I think something like that really depends on the specifics. On average, suburbs are worse, mostly because of transportation, but if that was electrified via renewables, I imagine the difference would narrow.

Suburban sprawl cancels carbon-footprint savings of dense urban cores | Berkeley News

While suburban averages are greater, so is the variation. It's feasible for someone in a suburban setting to generate all their own energy and grow a substantial amount (possibly most?) of their own food. That's not viable in most suburban settings, and until industry starts efficiently using renewable energy at scale and managing land better, that will be a detriment to urban living.
 
I agree with that, but I also think it's an artifact of modern tracts rather than something specific to suburbia. Both my mom and mom in-law live in older tracts with a mishmash of houses and plenty of native plants and sometimes animals (deer, turkey, coyotes, skunk, bobcats, golden eagles, etc...) waltzing through. Otoh, my grandmother's place is your typical 80s tract home and is totally devoid of anything native. The problem with modern suburbia is that it steamrolls everything, which a city does, but w/o the high population density which reduces per capita energy consumption. It's really the worst of both worlds.
 

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