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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Ortega

Solar Energy and Climate Change

Solar energy is a renewable resource that plays a significant part in lowering greenhouse gas emissions and preventing climate change, which is essential for safeguarding people, animals, and ecosystems. Additionally, the usage of solar energy can minimize water consumption and enhance air quality. Sites must be chosen, planned, and managed to minimize impacts on nearby wildlife, animal habitat, soil resources, and water supplies since ground-mounted photovoltaics (PV) and concentrating solar-thermal power plants need the use of land. The Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) funds studies to better understand the interactions between solar energy installations, wildlife, and ecosystems and to develop plans that will improve the local environment as much as possible.

What Justifies the Research Topic?

The Solar Futures Study from DOE offers a number of solar energy deployment options that could assist in the country having a carbon-free electrical grid by 2035. By 2035, the report estimates that solar energy production will need 5.7 million acres of land, or about 0.3% of the contiguous United States. Understanding how solar energy infrastructure may affect wildlife and the surrounding ecosystem may be helpful in designing methods and technology that might avoid or minimize negative effects and maximize benefits as the deployment of solar energy projects increases.

Solar project developers often assess a number of sites, site designs, and operation plans when sitting and obtaining permits for solar projects. By abiding by the pertinent federal, state, and local regulations; requesting feedback from regulators; conducting impact assessments and mitigation; and so on, they evaluate the environmental effects of their initiatives. In order to optimize the siting and permitting process and guarantee healthy surrounding ecosystems, it is in the interest of solar developers, regulators, host communities, and other stakeholders to identify techniques and technologies that accomplish these goals. Stakeholders are able to enhance decision-making, lower soft costs, or non-hardware costs, and aid SETO in achieving its objectives by expanding the number of resources and field-tested solutions that are available.

SETO Environmental, Wildlife, and Energy Research

Collaborative groups of stakeholders, such as those from the solar business, communities that host solar, state and local governments, universities, environmental and conservation non-profits, and the agriculture sector, may lead SETO-funded research initiatives. Through its technical assistance initiatives, SETO also promotes information exchange among interested parties on the most recent tools and techniques that enable solar professionals to deploy solar in an environmentally friendly manner.

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