From: Sarah Nightingale, University of California - Riverside
Published December 20, 2017 11:37 AM

Researchers Identify Nontraditional Sites for Future Solar Farms

There’s a tradeoff when sprawling solar farms pop up on agricultural land: farmland disappears, perhaps forever, in return for growth in the promising renewable energy sector.

But what if large solar installations could be built away from agricultural land, eliminating the competition between two important industries?

In a study published today in Environmental Science and Technology, researchers at the University of California, Riverside and the University of California, Davis, explored the possibility of developing solar installations on a variety of unconventional sites in California’s Central Valley. They focused on this region, which comprises 15 percent of California’s landmass, because it is an area where food production, urban development and conservation collide.

Michael Allen, a distinguished professor emeritus of plant pathology and biology at UC Riverside and director of the university’s Center for Conservation Biology, said many existing solar farms are built in unsuitable areas, where they encroach on natural or agricultural lands already under threat from urban sprawl.

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