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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
Percent of representation goals that would not be attainable if all areas potentially suitable for solar development were to be developed.The goals refer to a hypothesized amount of each habitat that needs to be managed for conservation to meet long-term viability needs for representative biodiversity of the ecoregion. Goals are based on Randall et al. 2010.
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pone-0038437-g006: Percent of representation goals that would not be attainable if all areas potentially suitable for solar development were to be developed.The goals refer to a hypothesized amount of each habitat that needs to be managed for conservation to meet long-term viability needs for representative biodiversity of the ecoregion. Goals are based on Randall et al. 2010.

Mentions: If the full extent of areas without protective designation (i.e., BLM multiple use and private lands) that are potentially suitable for solar facilities were to be opened and used for solar development, large areas of Ecologically Core and Intact (hereafter, “higher conservation value”) lands would be lost, ranging from over 250,000 ha (<1%) to 1.6 million ha (<5%) (Table 1). This extent of loss would greatly reduce the ability to meet ecoregional conservation goals (per Randall et al. 2010) for many biodiversity targets, especially if higher slopes are eligible for development (Figure 6). Some targets would face extensive loss relative to the current distribution, such as mesquite upland scrub, greasewood flats, blackbrush shrubland, and mixed salt desert scrub [37] (Figure 6). The extent of desert tortoise suitable habitat outside tortoise conservation areas in higher conservation value lands that would be lost varies considerably based on slope angle, from 90,103 ha (<1%) to over 1 M ha (<5%). The location of many of the areas at risk are in flat valleys which often connect existing conservation lands for wide-ranging species like desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis nelsoni) [38].


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

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

Percent of representation goals that would not be attainable if all areas potentially suitable for solar development were to be developed.The goals refer to a hypothesized amount of each habitat that needs to be managed for conservation to meet long-term viability needs for representative biodiversity of the ecoregion. Goals are based on Randall et al. 2010.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

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

pone-0038437-g006: Percent of representation goals that would not be attainable if all areas potentially suitable for solar development were to be developed.The goals refer to a hypothesized amount of each habitat that needs to be managed for conservation to meet long-term viability needs for representative biodiversity of the ecoregion. Goals are based on Randall et al. 2010.
Mentions: If the full extent of areas without protective designation (i.e., BLM multiple use and private lands) that are potentially suitable for solar facilities were to be opened and used for solar development, large areas of Ecologically Core and Intact (hereafter, “higher conservation value”) lands would be lost, ranging from over 250,000 ha (<1%) to 1.6 million ha (<5%) (Table 1). This extent of loss would greatly reduce the ability to meet ecoregional conservation goals (per Randall et al. 2010) for many biodiversity targets, especially if higher slopes are eligible for development (Figure 6). Some targets would face extensive loss relative to the current distribution, such as mesquite upland scrub, greasewood flats, blackbrush shrubland, and mixed salt desert scrub [37] (Figure 6). The extent of desert tortoise suitable habitat outside tortoise conservation areas in higher conservation value lands that would be lost varies considerably based on slope angle, from 90,103 ha (<1%) to over 1 M ha (<5%). The location of many of the areas at risk are in flat valleys which often connect existing conservation lands for wide-ranging species like desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis nelsoni) [38].

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