According to an in-depth report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the land-use requirements for solar power plants are wide ranging across different technologies.
The NREL found generation-weighted averages for total area requirements ranging greatly. We’ll include a full table further down, but these are some of the key numbers from the report.
CSP towers & CPV installations: About 3 acres/GWh/yr.
Small 2-axis flat panel PV power plants: 5.5 acres/GWh/yr.
All solar technologies: Total area generation-weighted average is 3.5 acres/GWh/yr.
40% of power plants: Within 3 and 4 acres/GWh/yr.
Direct-area requirements: Generation-weighted average is 2.9 acres/GWh/yr.
49% of power plants: Within 2.5 and 3.5 acres/GWh/yr.
Total-area capacity-weighted average: 8.9 acres/MWac
22% of power plants: Within 8 and 10 acres/MWac.
Direct land-use requirements: Capacity-weighted average is 7.3 acre/MWac
40% of power plants: Within 6 and 8 acres/MWac.
The table below, courtesy of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, highlights the differences in land-use requirements for PV and CSP projects across the United States.
The NREL notes that some solar categories have small sample sizes and that high-quality data isn’t necessarily available for every solar project and so this should be taken into account when reading their report.
Of course, given the rapid development of renewable energy and solar energy technologies in particular, this NREL report can only account for past performance and doesn’t necessarily reflect the future trends of land-use requirements for solar power plants. Additionally, policy and regulation surrounding land-use for solar is also developing and changing frequently.
The NREL also notes that any future reports on this subject could draw from larger sample sizes and additional data sources, making for a more thorough investigation. Solar, in utility-scale terms, is still relatively young in the grand scheme of things and so future reports will have a greater wealth of information to draw upon.
The image below, also courtesy of the NREL report, shows both direct and total land use of a solar PV system. However, as noted, access roads, infrastructure, and other direct impact areas are not shown in this particular graphic.
Click here to download the full report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and gain a greater understanding of the land-use requirements for solar power plants.
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