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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.

Show MeSH
Conservation values in potentially suitable lands for solar development below 5% slope angle.Urban areas, water bodies, and lands outside of private or BLM multiple use ownerships, and areas above 5% slope were removed. Conservation value colors are the same as Figure 2. Lands in orange and red are classified as lower conservation value lands for which energy production estimates are provided in the results.
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pone-0038437-g003: Conservation values in potentially suitable lands for solar development below 5% slope angle.Urban areas, water bodies, and lands outside of private or BLM multiple use ownerships, and areas above 5% slope were removed. Conservation value colors are the same as Figure 2. Lands in orange and red are classified as lower conservation value lands for which energy production estimates are provided in the results.

Mentions: We found large areas of the Mojave Desert that are potentially suitable for the development of solar facilities that are ecologically degraded with lower regional conservation value (Figure 3). The amount of lower conservation value land that meets the development suitability criteria ranges from nearly 200,000 ha (<1% land surface slope angle) to over 740,000 ha (<5% slope) (Table 1). The level of potential compatibility between development and conservation is much greater if land with higher slope can be utilized, with nearly four times more lower conservation value land at the 5% cutoff compared to the 1%.


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

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

Conservation values in potentially suitable lands for solar development below 5% slope angle.Urban areas, water bodies, and lands outside of private or BLM multiple use ownerships, and areas above 5% slope were removed. Conservation value colors are the same as Figure 2. Lands in orange and red are classified as lower conservation value lands for which energy production estimates are provided in the results.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

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

pone-0038437-g003: Conservation values in potentially suitable lands for solar development below 5% slope angle.Urban areas, water bodies, and lands outside of private or BLM multiple use ownerships, and areas above 5% slope were removed. Conservation value colors are the same as Figure 2. Lands in orange and red are classified as lower conservation value lands for which energy production estimates are provided in the results.
Mentions: We found large areas of the Mojave Desert that are potentially suitable for the development of solar facilities that are ecologically degraded with lower regional conservation value (Figure 3). The amount of lower conservation value land that meets the development suitability criteria ranges from nearly 200,000 ha (<1% land surface slope angle) to over 740,000 ha (<5% slope) (Table 1). The level of potential compatibility between development and conservation is much greater if land with higher slope can be utilized, with nearly four times more lower conservation value land at the 5% cutoff compared to the 1%.

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