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Large-Scale Solar Siting: Encouraging Ecosystem Enhancement and Conservation While Producing Much Needed Zero-Carbon Electricity

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With passage of the landmark Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), the first significant step toward addressing climate change through federal statute, Congress has taken a major step forward. Through tax policy, Congress locked down long-term incentives for renewable energy projects and storage projects and put new policies in place to encourage U.S. production of the materials used in those projects at fair wages.

These changes will accelerate the clean energy revolution that is already underway and incentivize the installation of renewable energy projects to help achieve 2030 and longer-term decarbonization goals. Although these policy changes are welcome and needed, many other barriers to reaching federal and state decarbonization goals remain. One such area is large-scale project siting.

As electricity production moves away from central station, fossil fuel-fired power plants, and toward more spread-out clean energy projects that occupy more land, questions around where to put projects have come to the forefront. Siting large-scale projects also raises questions about changing land use patterns, the environmental impact of large-scale solar projects, as well as their impacts on the host community.

This new Solar and Storage Industries Institute policy brief proposes a siting framework for large-scale solar projects which will produce much needed zero-carbon electricity and can serve important ecosystem enhancement and conservation roles. This paper argues that large-scale solar projects should be designed and operated to maximize preservation of our natural capital and ecosystems and sited to minimize negative impacts on land.
 

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