in News Departments > New & Noteworthy
print the content item

comments: 0



A new report published by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) on the land use requirements of solar power plants suggests planners and developers tend to underestimate the acreage required for their projects. The study's authors say they gathered data from 72% of the solar power plants installed or under construction in the U.S. and analyzed installations both in terms of their capacities and annual generation.

The report found a wide range of total land use requirements for solar power plants across technologies. Generation-weighted averages for total area requirements range from about 3 acres per GWh per year (GWh/yr) for concentrating solar power towers and concentrated photovoltaic installations to 5.5 acres per GWh/yr for small two-axis flat panel PV power plants.

Across all solar technologies in terms of generation, the report says the total area average - which includes the full footprint of a bounded site - is 3.5 acres per GWh/yr, with 40% of power plants within 3 and 4 acres per GWh/yr. For direct area requirements - which measures just the acreage of the power-producing elements - the generation-weighted average is 2.9 acres per GWh/yr, with 49% of power plants within 2.5 and 3.5 acres per GWh/yr.

On a capacity basis, the total area capacity-weighted average is 8.9 acres per MW, with 22% of power plants within 8 and 10 acres per MW. For direct land use requirements, the capacity-weighted average is 7.3 acres per MW, with 40% of power plants within 6 and 8 acres per MW.

According to lead author Sean Ong, one of the interesting aspects of the study is the role of panel spacing on the amount of area a PV plant takes up.

"I was surprised to see that the efficiency of the modules used for PV plants did not necessarily lead to better performance per acre," Ong tells Solar Industry. "The spacing of the solar panels had a much bigger impact."

Ong says the solar plants that were the most productive per acre were those with serious siting constraints, such as plants built on landfills and brownfields in developed areas. The siting constraints force developers to pack more solar panels into a given area, Ong concludes. This should serve as welcome news to developers considering such sites for their projects.

Mitigation is another siting issue the report has bearing on, Ong says. For many projects, especially those in environmentally sensitive areas, developers have to purchase an amount of land to set aside for preservation. He says the report could be a useful tool for developers and authorities to use to more accurately evaluate how much land would be needed to fulfill generation requirements for power purchase agreements and environmental mitigation requirements.

Along with Ong, the report, "Land-use Requirements for Solar Power Plants in the United States," was written with NREL colleagues Clinton Campbell, Robert Margolis, Paul Denholm and Garvin Heath.

SolarEnergyTradeShow_id1384

Surrette_id1409
Latest Top Stories

Hawaiian Electric's Solar Plans Put New Focus On DG Interconnection

Hawaiian Electric Co.'s proposed energy plan includes ambitious goals for solar integration that address grid integrity issues. Installers, however, find little to cheer in the short run.


N.Y. Property Tax Exemption For Renewables Bill Ready For Signature

In a move that is expected to boost renewable energy in the state, the New York legislature has sent Gov. Andrew Cuomo a bill that would extend property tax exemptions for certain solar, wind and biomass projects to Jan. 1, 2025.


Are Solar Shingles Coming To A Rooftop Near You?

Despite the initial hype, the new technology has been slow to make inroads against conventional rooftop solar.


Solar Cell Production Line Upgrades Driving Higher PV Performance

Manufacturers of multicrystalline solar cells are seeking to improve performance by implementing new technologies on existing lines.


Own Or Lease? Think Of Rooftop Solar As A Car That Makes Money

While upfront cost is often the first issue on the prospective solar customer's mind, it should not be the only one.

S&C Electric_id1352
SilcoTek
Lufft_id1410
WIP_id1320
PVcobra_id1394