Solar power is at the center of climate mitigation strategies, but it comes with its own set of environmental issues. The amount of land required for the energy revolution is a source of concern, particularly as additional utility-scale solar facilities are developed. For example, following local resistance, developers of a projected 850 MW solar farm in the desert north of Las Vegas withdrew their application with the Bureau of Land Management in July. Residents said that the array, which would cover over 14 square miles, was going to be an eyesore and would interfere with recreational activities in the area.
According to a Clemson University study, energy generation for domestic and export will increase by 27% by 2040. To accommodate all of the accompanying facilities, approximately 124,000 square miles of land will be required. With the spacing standards in place, over 500,000 square miles of land, the size of Texas, will be devoted to new energy production. To be sure, solar installations are prevalent in the constructed environment (carports, rooftops, and so on). There are various advantages to having these spread sites. However, large-scale projects with vast footprints are required if the country is to meet its renewable energy penetration targets quickly.
However, not every large-scale solar installation must be built on vacant land or farmland. Landfill solar, floatovoltaics , and highway rights-of-way are three choices. Let’s take a look at each one separately.
Is it better to go by sea or land?
Floatovoltaics are a popular PV trend, with capacity expected to treble by 2021. Because the solar array sits on top of a waterbody, the buildings largely eliminate land-use debates. These structures are usually seen propped up on a basin or lake, where the water is gentler than the ocean.
These initiatives frequently take place in dual-use locations. Floatovoltaics could be installed in hydroelectric dam water sources, reservoirs, and wastewater treatment ponds.
Take, for example, the Far Niente Winery situated in Napa Valley, California. It is commonly regarded as the world’s first grid-connected floatovoltaic array, having been completed in 2008. The solar array uses 2,296 panels to cover the winery’s yearly requirement of 800,000 kWh, with 1,200 of them sitting on top of the irrigation reservoir, reserving neighboring vineyard acreage for grape cultivation.
Landfills are brimming with possibilities.
Another area for expansion is landfills and some other contaminated brownfield sites. As part of its RE-Powering America’s Land effort, the US Environmental Protection Agency records solar-landfill topping installations, which have increased by 80% in the last five years. Nearly 60% of the projects tracked are on landfills, while solar PV accounts for more than 90 percent of the RE-Powering installations.
The majority of the facilities are either privately or municipally owned, accounting for roughly 1.5 GW of the 1.8 GW installed capacity. Two-thirds of the initiatives sell power back to a grid, and community solar projects account for 22% of the sites monitored. Approximately 70% of these plants have a capacity of 1 MW or more.
The Highway right-of-way (ROW) regions have special characteristics that make them ideal for solar installations. According to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), ROW areas provide easy access to nearby solar projects, and transmission lines frequently follow highway alignments. Furthermore, ROWs feature well-kept vegetation and a handful of trees or other sources of shade.
ROW PV has a lot of possible safety and quality hazards, according to the CDOT research. Panel glint and glare, snowdrift and deposition, water quality management challenges, driver safety in crashes, and secure access for maintenance were among the top concerns.
CDOT developed a set of tools as a consequence of the study to aid in the correct location of solar plants. Glint and glare hazard estimates, array siting considerations, an impact matrix, and mitigation measures were among the tools.