Many jurisdictions in the United States - Hawaii, California, New Mexico, Washington, Nevada, Puerto Rico, and New York - have recently passed legislation setting ambitious midcentury targets of significant economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions reductions and 100% carbon-free electricity. However, few studies have considered the natural and agricultural land constraints and impacts of the infrastructure needed for a grid dominated by wind and solar generation and none have examined it at the level of ambition for deep decarbonization. We use the state of California as a case study for developing an analytical framework that integrates land use considerations in the energy planning process to examine the land use constraints and trade-offs of achieving ambitious renewable energy targets. By combining an electricity sector capacity expansion model with the detailed spatial representation of areas with high conservation and agricultural value, our study is the first to demonstrate how the integration of natural and cultivated lands in an energy planning process can help to design a course to achieve both land conservation and energy objectives. We assess how constraints on both power plant and transmission siting that protect high-conservation-value and prime agricultural land affect California’s technology choices and costs to meet climate targets, and how these, in turn, shape electricity’s land impacts. We also examine a key policy option actively being considered by regulators - low-impact solar or wind energy imports from other western states - and how this can alter the balance between system costs and conservation.
Speaker Erica Brand, The Nature Conservancy
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Stanford, CA 94305
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