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An approach to enhance the conservation-compatibility of solar energy development.

Cameron DR, Cohen BS, Morrison SA - PLoS ONE (2012)

Bottom Line: Utility-scale renewable energy development (>1 MW capacity) is a key strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but development of those facilities also can have adverse effects on biodiversity.We found over 740,000 ha below the highest slope angle (<5%)--an area that can meet California's renewable energy goal seven times over.Using the approach presented here, planners could reduce development impacts on areas of higher conservation value, and so reduce trade-offs between converting to a green energy economy and conserving biodiversity.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: The Nature Conservancy, San Francisco, California, United States of America. dcameron@tnc.org

ABSTRACT
The rapid pace of climate change poses a major threat to biodiversity. Utility-scale renewable energy development (>1 MW capacity) is a key strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but development of those facilities also can have adverse effects on biodiversity. Here, we examine the synergy between renewable energy generation goals and those for biodiversity conservation in the 13 M ha Mojave Desert of the southwestern USA. We integrated spatial data on biodiversity conservation value, solar energy potential, and land surface slope angle (a key determinant of development feasibility) and found there to be sufficient area to meet renewable energy goals without developing on lands of relatively high conservation value. Indeed, we found nearly 200,000 ha of lower conservation value land below the most restrictive slope angle (<1%); that area could meet the state of California's current 33% renewable energy goal 1.8 times over. We found over 740,000 ha below the highest slope angle (<5%)--an area that can meet California's renewable energy goal seven times over. Our analysis also suggests that the supply of high quality habitat on private land may be insufficient to mitigate impacts from future solar projects, so enhancing public land management may need to be considered among the options to offset such impacts. Using the approach presented here, planners could reduce development impacts on areas of higher conservation value, and so reduce trade-offs between converting to a green energy economy and conserving biodiversity.

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The mitigation hierarchy.Under this schema, developers advancing a project choose locations for their project that avoid environmental impacts. If impacts cannot be completely avoided, they then take steps to minimize impacts. Once impacts are minimized to the extent possible, restoration opportunities are pursued. Residual impacts not addressed by the previous steps are then offset through compensatory mitigation, using ratios that result in a net positive impact on biodiversity. Adapted from Convention on Biological Diversity 2008 [54].
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pone-0038437-g001: The mitigation hierarchy.Under this schema, developers advancing a project choose locations for their project that avoid environmental impacts. If impacts cannot be completely avoided, they then take steps to minimize impacts. Once impacts are minimized to the extent possible, restoration opportunities are pursued. Residual impacts not addressed by the previous steps are then offset through compensatory mitigation, using ratios that result in a net positive impact on biodiversity. Adapted from Convention on Biological Diversity 2008 [54].

Mentions: Avoiding impacts through the selection of appropriate development locations and compensating for any residual impacts are core components of the “mitigation hierarchy”, a planning approach most commonly used to avoid impacts to wetlands [14], [15] (Figure 1). Adherence to this approach can help reduce adverse impacts of development, by defining resources and areas to be avoided, and outlining steps to minimize, restore, or offset unavoidable impacts. The principles of the mitigation hierarchy can be applied at a landscape scale through spatial analyses that map constraints and opportunities for both development and conservation [16]–[18]. Finding areas that are both suitable for renewable energy development and of relatively low biodiversity conservation value represents a possible “win-win” for two otherwise potentially conflicting objectives [19]. When complete avoidance of impacts is not possible, this approach can improve the conservation return of investments in compensatory mitigation, by directing it to places and efforts that also advance regional conservation goals [16], [20], [21].


An approach to enhance the conservation-compatibility of solar energy development.

Cameron DR, Cohen BS, Morrison SA - PLoS ONE (2012)

The mitigation hierarchy.Under this schema, developers advancing a project choose locations for their project that avoid environmental impacts. If impacts cannot be completely avoided, they then take steps to minimize impacts. Once impacts are minimized to the extent possible, restoration opportunities are pursued. Residual impacts not addressed by the previous steps are then offset through compensatory mitigation, using ratios that result in a net positive impact on biodiversity. Adapted from Convention on Biological Diversity 2008 [54].
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

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getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3369905&req=5

pone-0038437-g001: The mitigation hierarchy.Under this schema, developers advancing a project choose locations for their project that avoid environmental impacts. If impacts cannot be completely avoided, they then take steps to minimize impacts. Once impacts are minimized to the extent possible, restoration opportunities are pursued. Residual impacts not addressed by the previous steps are then offset through compensatory mitigation, using ratios that result in a net positive impact on biodiversity. Adapted from Convention on Biological Diversity 2008 [54].
Mentions: Avoiding impacts through the selection of appropriate development locations and compensating for any residual impacts are core components of the “mitigation hierarchy”, a planning approach most commonly used to avoid impacts to wetlands [14], [15] (Figure 1). Adherence to this approach can help reduce adverse impacts of development, by defining resources and areas to be avoided, and outlining steps to minimize, restore, or offset unavoidable impacts. The principles of the mitigation hierarchy can be applied at a landscape scale through spatial analyses that map constraints and opportunities for both development and conservation [16]–[18]. Finding areas that are both suitable for renewable energy development and of relatively low biodiversity conservation value represents a possible “win-win” for two otherwise potentially conflicting objectives [19]. When complete avoidance of impacts is not possible, this approach can improve the conservation return of investments in compensatory mitigation, by directing it to places and efforts that also advance regional conservation goals [16], [20], [21].

Bottom Line: Utility-scale renewable energy development (>1 MW capacity) is a key strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but development of those facilities also can have adverse effects on biodiversity.We found over 740,000 ha below the highest slope angle (<5%)--an area that can meet California's renewable energy goal seven times over.Using the approach presented here, planners could reduce development impacts on areas of higher conservation value, and so reduce trade-offs between converting to a green energy economy and conserving biodiversity.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: The Nature Conservancy, San Francisco, California, United States of America. dcameron@tnc.org

ABSTRACT
The rapid pace of climate change poses a major threat to biodiversity. Utility-scale renewable energy development (>1 MW capacity) is a key strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but development of those facilities also can have adverse effects on biodiversity. Here, we examine the synergy between renewable energy generation goals and those for biodiversity conservation in the 13 M ha Mojave Desert of the southwestern USA. We integrated spatial data on biodiversity conservation value, solar energy potential, and land surface slope angle (a key determinant of development feasibility) and found there to be sufficient area to meet renewable energy goals without developing on lands of relatively high conservation value. Indeed, we found nearly 200,000 ha of lower conservation value land below the most restrictive slope angle (<1%); that area could meet the state of California's current 33% renewable energy goal 1.8 times over. We found over 740,000 ha below the highest slope angle (<5%)--an area that can meet California's renewable energy goal seven times over. Our analysis also suggests that the supply of high quality habitat on private land may be insufficient to mitigate impacts from future solar projects, so enhancing public land management may need to be considered among the options to offset such impacts. Using the approach presented here, planners could reduce development impacts on areas of higher conservation value, and so reduce trade-offs between converting to a green energy economy and conserving biodiversity.

Show MeSH