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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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Conservation value in the Mojave Desert Ecoregion.The conservation values categories are depicted on the map as follows: dark green areas are Ecologically Core, light green are Ecologically Intact, orange are Moderately Degraded, and red are Highly Converted (adapted from Randall et al. 2010). Subregions of the Mojave Desert are shown in the purple-white outline; labels indicate the 1. Northern, 2. Western, 3. South-central, 4. Central, 5. Southeastern, and 6. Eastern subregions. Urbanized land is grey and highways are in grey lines. The location of the ecoregion in the coterminous United States is shown in the inset map.
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pone-0038437-g002: Conservation value in the Mojave Desert Ecoregion.The conservation values categories are depicted on the map as follows: dark green areas are Ecologically Core, light green are Ecologically Intact, orange are Moderately Degraded, and red are Highly Converted (adapted from Randall et al. 2010). Subregions of the Mojave Desert are shown in the purple-white outline; labels indicate the 1. Northern, 2. Western, 3. South-central, 4. Central, 5. Southeastern, and 6. Eastern subregions. Urbanized land is grey and highways are in grey lines. The location of the ecoregion in the coterminous United States is shown in the inset map.

Mentions: The biodiversity input into this analysis is a characterization of conservation value across the Mojave Desert Ecoregion, from Randall et al.’s (2010) Mojave Ecoregional Assessment (hereafter, the Assessment) [26]. The Assessment analyzed a broad set of conservation elements, or “targets” (44 vegetation communities and 521 plant and animal taxa) and used the conservation planning software Marxan [27] to generate alternative configurations of areas to meet conservation objectives. By integrating Marxan output of priority areas, aerial photo interpretation (to assess degree of anthropogenic ground disturbance), and principles of conservation reserve design, Randall et al. classified the land into categories of high (i.e., Ecologically Core, Ecologically Intact) and low (i.e., Moderately Degraded, Highly Converted) conservation value (Figure 2). Here, we used the latter category to represent areas of lower conservation value. We note that the approach we present is flexible, and could accommodate other conservation assessments as the biodiversity input. For example, other prioritization analyses exist for individual species in the ecoregion (such as federal endangered species critical habitat units) or as habitat conservation plans for portions of the ecoregion [28]–[29]. We selected the Randall et al. 2010 conservation value assessment because it is the most recent and consistent characterization of the distribution of biodiversity and land use impacts across the whole of the ecoregion.


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

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

Conservation value in the Mojave Desert Ecoregion.The conservation values categories are depicted on the map as follows: dark green areas are Ecologically Core, light green are Ecologically Intact, orange are Moderately Degraded, and red are Highly Converted (adapted from Randall et al. 2010). Subregions of the Mojave Desert are shown in the purple-white outline; labels indicate the 1. Northern, 2. Western, 3. South-central, 4. Central, 5. Southeastern, and 6. Eastern subregions. Urbanized land is grey and highways are in grey lines. The location of the ecoregion in the coterminous United States is shown in the inset map.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3369905&req=5

pone-0038437-g002: Conservation value in the Mojave Desert Ecoregion.The conservation values categories are depicted on the map as follows: dark green areas are Ecologically Core, light green are Ecologically Intact, orange are Moderately Degraded, and red are Highly Converted (adapted from Randall et al. 2010). Subregions of the Mojave Desert are shown in the purple-white outline; labels indicate the 1. Northern, 2. Western, 3. South-central, 4. Central, 5. Southeastern, and 6. Eastern subregions. Urbanized land is grey and highways are in grey lines. The location of the ecoregion in the coterminous United States is shown in the inset map.
Mentions: The biodiversity input into this analysis is a characterization of conservation value across the Mojave Desert Ecoregion, from Randall et al.’s (2010) Mojave Ecoregional Assessment (hereafter, the Assessment) [26]. The Assessment analyzed a broad set of conservation elements, or “targets” (44 vegetation communities and 521 plant and animal taxa) and used the conservation planning software Marxan [27] to generate alternative configurations of areas to meet conservation objectives. By integrating Marxan output of priority areas, aerial photo interpretation (to assess degree of anthropogenic ground disturbance), and principles of conservation reserve design, Randall et al. classified the land into categories of high (i.e., Ecologically Core, Ecologically Intact) and low (i.e., Moderately Degraded, Highly Converted) conservation value (Figure 2). Here, we used the latter category to represent areas of lower conservation value. We note that the approach we present is flexible, and could accommodate other conservation assessments as the biodiversity input. For example, other prioritization analyses exist for individual species in the ecoregion (such as federal endangered species critical habitat units) or as habitat conservation plans for portions of the ecoregion [28]–[29]. We selected the Randall et al. 2010 conservation value assessment because it is the most recent and consistent characterization of the distribution of biodiversity and land use impacts across the whole of the ecoregion.

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