Solar Land Use
One concern regarding large-scale deployment of solar energy is its potentially significant land use. This article summarizes data and analysis of the land use associated with U.S. utility-scale ground-mounted photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP) facilities. This article presents total and direct land-use results for various solar technologies and system configurations, on both a capacity and an electricity-generation basis. The total area corresponds to all land enclosed by the site boundary. The direct area comprises land directly occupied by solar arrays, access roads, substations, service buildings, and other infrastructure. As of the third quarter of 2012, the solar projects analyzed represent 72% of installed and under-construction utility-scale PV and CSP capacity in the United States.
The figure in this article summarizes capacity-based total and direct land-use results for small and large utility-scale PV and CSP projects. Direct land-use requirements for small and large PV installations range from 2.2 to 12.2 acres/MWac, with a capacity-weighted average of 6.9 acres/MWac. Direct land-use intensity for CSP installations ranges from 2.0 to 13.9 acres/MWac, with a capacity-weighted average of 7.7 acres/MWac. On a generation-basis direct land-use requirements for PV installations range from 1.6 to 5.8 acres/GWh/yr, with a generation-weighted average of 3.1 acres/GWh/yr. Direct land-use intensity for CSP installations ranges from 1.5 to 5.3 acres/GWh/yr, with a generation-weighted average of 2.7 acres/GWh/yr.
For an in-depth analysis and evaluation of solar land use in the United States, please see Land-Use Requirements for Solar Power Plants in the United States