By Jeffrey Tomich, E&E News
“Solar is like a private CRP [Conservation Reserve Program]. Instead of the government
paying farmers, we pay the farmers.” – Nick Cohen, CEO of Global Energy
The coal mines dotting Indiana’s southwest corner are quickly giving way to a new source of energy that will help power Hoosier State factories and farms in the decades to come — the sun. Solar projects totaling 22,000 megawatts of capacity —- 50% greater than the sum of Indiana’s coal fleet — are seeking to plug into the two wholesale power grids that cover parts of the state, PJM Interconnection and the Midcontinent Independent System Operator.
The boom is part of a broader trend playing out across the Midwest and the United States as solar costs continue to fall. But coal-reliant Indiana has emerged as an unlikely solar hot spot, with more new capacity seeking interconnection than California last year, according to a recent analysis by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. In fact, only Texas and Arizona saw more gigawatts of solar capacity added to interconnection queues. Read more here.
Additional information on land use and utility-scale solar is available here:
SOLAR ENERGY INDUSTRIES ASSOCIATION
Siting, Permitting & Land Use for Utility-Scale Solar
There is tremendous solar power generation potential in the United States. In five minutes, enough sunlight shines on the continental U.S. to satisfy our electricity demand for an entire month. Research from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows that the entire U.S. could be powered by utility-scale solar occupying just 0.6% of the nation’s land mass.
BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT – U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
Solar Energy: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
The BLM manages millions of acres of public lands with excellent solar energy potential. Climate concerns, state renewable energy portfolio standards, investment tax credits, technological advances, and decreasing costs of equipment are drivers of interest to site utility-scale solar energy development on public lands. As a result, we expect that private companies will continue to have an interest in developing this resource on public lands. In fact, we have been approving solar projects since 2010.
The Solar Energy Environmental Mapper is an online mapping tool that allows users to overlay solar energy potential on BLM-administered lands with other natural, social, and cultural resource data. BLM staff and stakeholders can use the tool to identify areas with high solar energy potential and low resource conflict that may be appropriate for solar energy development.
THE NATURE CONSERVANCY
Six Pathways to a Clean and Green Renewable Energy Buildout
Renewable energy infrastructure requires a lot of land—especially onshore wind and large-scale solar installations, which we will need to meet our ambitious climate goals. Siting renewable energy in areas that support wildlife habitat not only harms nature but also increases the potential for project conflicts that could slow the buildout—a prospect we cannot afford. Building renewables on natural lands can also undermine climate progress by converting forests and other areas that store carbon and serve as natural climate solutions.
Fortunately, there is plenty of previously developed land that can be used to meet our clean energy needs—at least 17 times the amount of land needed to meet the Paris Agreement goals. But accelerating the buildout on these lands requires taking pro-active measures now.
Clean & Green: Pathways for Promoting Renewable Energy, a new report from The Nature Conservancy (TNC), is a call to action that highlights six ways for governments, corporations and lenders to promote a clean and green renewable energy buildout.
- Conservancy charts a solar showcase on the coalfields of Central Appalachia, Energy News Network
- The Nature Conservancy News Release: TNC Announces Innovative Collaboration for Solar Development in Central Appalachia