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Report firms up land-use requirements of solar: 1,000 homes would require 32 acres

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Posted August 7, 2013

The Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has published a report on the land use requirements of solar power plants based on actual land-use practices from existing solar facilities. "Having real data from a majority of the solar plants in the United States will help people make proper comparisons and informed decisions," lead author Sean Ong said. The report, "Land-use Requirements for Solar Power Plants in the United States,"PDF was written with NREL colleagues Clinton Campbell, Robert Margolis, Paul Denholm and Garvin Heath. Ong gathered data from 72% of the solar power plants installed or under construction in the United States. Among the findings: A large fixed tilt photovoltaic (PV) plant that generates 1 gigawatt-hour per year requires, on average, 2.8 acres for the solar panels. This means that a solar power plant that provides all of the electricity for 1,000 homes would require 32 acres of land. Small single-axis PV systems require on average 2.9 acres per annual gigawatt-hour – or 3.8 acres when considering all unused area that falls inside the project boundary. Concentrating solar power plants require on average 2.7 acres for solar collectors and other equipment per annual gigawatt-hour; 3.5 acres for all land enclosed within the project boundary. By the third quarter of 2012, the United States had deployed more than 2.1 gigawatts of utility-scale solar generation capacity. Another 4.6 gigawatts was under construction. There has been a long-running debate over the comparative land needs for various forms of energy, old and new. But that's not the purpose of the new report, Ong and Denholm emphasized.

The Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has published a report on the land use requirements of solar power plants based on actual land-use practices from existing solar facilities.

“Having real data from a majority of the solar plants in the United States will help people make proper comparisons and informed decisions,” lead author Sean Ong said. The report, “Land-use Requirements for Solar Power Plants in the United States,”PDF was written with NREL colleagues Clinton Campbell, Robert Margolis, Paul Denholm and Garvin Heath.

Ong gathered data from 72% of the solar power plants installed or under construction in the United States. Among the findings:

  • A large fixed tilt photovoltaic (PV) plant that generates 1 gigawatt-hour per year requires, on average, 2.8 acres for the solar panels. This means that a solar power plant that provides all of the electricity for 1,000 homes would require 32 acres of land.
  • Small single-axis PV systems require on average 2.9 acres per annual gigawatt-hour – or 3.8 acres when considering all unused area that falls inside the project boundary.
  • Concentrating solar power plants require on average 2.7 acres for solar collectors and other equipment per annual gigawatt-hour; 3.5 acres for all land enclosed within the project boundary.

By the third quarter of 2012, the United States had deployed more than 2.1 gigawatts of utility-scale solar generation capacity. Another 4.6 gigawatts was under construction. There has been a long-running debate over the comparative land needs for various forms of energy, old and new. But that’s not the purpose of the new report, Ong and Denholm emphasized.

Read more at: Phys.org

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