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Utility Scale Solar Electric (USSE) and land use implications of meeting 2030 Renewable Energy Goals for California and Nevada in the Mojave Desert
AuthorWright, Scott Andrew
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In order to meet their own Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) Requirements for 2030, California and Nevada will need to significantly boost their production (and consumption) of renewable energy facilities if they are to reach their goals of 60% and 50%, respectively. In order to meet these goals and meet net generation for these requirements within their borders, significant land use changes will be made across the landscape, especially in the desert southwest where it is anticipated that most of these changes will occur. Due to its 30 million acres of land that hosts some of the highest solar radiation in the United States, the area around the Mojave Desert Ecoregion is the aim for new construction of Utility Scale Solar Electric (USSE), or solar facilities that produce >1 Megawatt in capacity. Using current population trends for California and Nevada, as well as total energy use per capita, along with other energy-related measures, the estimated energy demands of California and Nevada by 2030 will be around 395,000 Gigawatt Hours, with 233,000 Gigawatt Hours having to come from renewables. If the nearly 440,000 acres of streamlined Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land available in this study area were fully developed using only USSE, 75% of the combined 2030 projected energy consumption needs could be met per the RPS goals of each state. With a full build-out of DFA lands not expected however, a developer predictability model was calculated of the current DFA sites to estimate which are most favorable to developers based on seven anthropogenic variables. I will be showing the developer suitability of streamlined Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land designated for USSE sites to weigh the influence of the seven different anthropogenic variables and their influence on developer site choices. These seven variables include distances to Main Roads, Substations, Transmission Lines, Energy Corridors, Urban Boundaries, other Solar Sites, as well as a Solar Potential variable. A General Additive Model showed that the highest weighted variables for 233 existing sites in the project boundary were most highly correlated to energy infrastructure with proximity to Substations, Transmission Lines, and other Solar Sites providing the most variable influence. An ensemble of the model outlined that only 34.8% of the available land for streamlined permitting falls into the upper half of the predictability threshold.