Siting solar energy development to minimize biological impacts

TitleSiting solar energy development to minimize biological impacts
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsStoms, DM, Dashiell, SL, Davis, FW
JournalRenewable Energy
Start Page289
Keywordsecological condition, GIS, mitigation hierarchy, multicriteria analysis, siting criteria, utility-scale solar energy

After solar and other renewable energy developers select generally suitable sites for exploration, they frequently encounter conflict over biodiversity conservation values that were not factored into the initial suitability rating methods. This paper presents a spatial multicriteria analysis method for modeling risk of conflict with biological resources and applies the model in the California deserts where such conflicts are rapidly rising. The premise of the model is that the least conflict will occur on sites that are the most ecologically degraded with low conservation value and that would engender low offsite impacts when connecting to existing transmission infrastructure. Model results suggest sufficient compatible land exists in flat, non-urban areas to meet state solar energy targets of 18-26 GW of installed capacity in the California deserts for 2050. The model is a promising tool to fill the gap between site suitability analysis for renewable energy and regional biodiversity conservation planning to identify areas where rapid impact assessment and permitting will generate the least regrets.