Designing solar farms for synergistic commercial and conservation outcomes

Nordberg, Eric J., Caley, M. Julian, and Schwarzkopf, Lin (2021) Designing solar farms for synergistic commercial and conservation outcomes. Solar Energy, 228. pp. 586-593.

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Abstract

Competition among land uses is making it increasingly difficult to set aside adequate space for wildlife and nature conservation, so it is imperative that opportunities that simultaneously achieve commercial and conservation outcomes be identified and seized. Such opportunities exist in the renewable energy industry. It is widely recognized that renewable energy generation benefits the ecosphere through reduced carbon emissions, but currently, further opportunities for realising direct and indirect conservation benefits through the design of solar farms are less well known. Among other opportunities, solar farm designs that deliver environmental credits through carbon sequestration and biodiversity improvements can deliver higher financial returns. Other opportunities to improve local hydrology, pollination, and pest-control services could be available depending on site-specific characteristics where solar farms are built, and the other land use practices that exist, or are possible, in the immediate vicinity. Here, we explore opportunities among renewable energy generation, agriculture, and conservation, through the co-location and innovative design of PV solar energy farms on grazing and croplands. These forms of land sharing can achieve higher land-equivalent ratios (LERs), a quantitative metric of the reduction in land use. We identify opportunities whereby solar farms can be designed to improve biodiversity, land condition, and conservation outcomes, while maintaining or increasing commercial returns. Much work remains, however, to understand the suite of opportunities available for achieving simultaneously the best commercial and conservation outcomes through solar farm designs in agricultural landscapes.

Item ID: 70016
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 0038-092X
Keywords: Agrivoltaic systems, Biodiversity, Land sharing, Regenerative agriculture, Solar farm, Triple bottom line
Copyright Information: © 2021 International Solar Energy Society. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Date Deposited: 23 Nov 2021 01:15
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410407 Wildlife and habitat management @ 100%
SEO Codes: 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1806 Terrestrial systems and management > 180606 Terrestrial biodiversity @ 100%
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