EME 812
Utility Solar Power and Concentration

1.4 Environmental Impact of Utility Scale Solar Power


1.4 Environmental Impact of Utility Scale Solar Power

Utility-scale solar power installations are on the rise worldwide - the tendency fostered by advances in technology, new energy policies, and markets. Because of this growth, there has been an increased interest among stakeholders to understand the broader impacts of such systems on society and environment. In spite of the often idealistic public perception of solar technology as "green" panacea, an objective examination of the solar technology lifecycle reveals both positive and negative impacts.

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Large photovoltaic plants are often perceived as competition for farming due to their substantial land footprint.
Image by Samuel Faber from Pixabay

Careful impact assessment of large solar projects is important in order to steer the energy infrastructure development towards the optimal solutions that would take into account economic, environmental, and social values. Understanding the sensitivities and existing ecosystem services at the locale at the utility project planning stage is becoming a key step in responsible solar development. 

Please read the following review article, which nicely covers the multiple effects of utility solar power.

Reading Assignment

Journal review article: Hernandez, R.R. et al., Environmental Impacts of Utility-Scale Solar Energy, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 29, 766 (2014). - 11 pages

This article will be the background of the Lesson 1 forum discussion, and you will get a few questions on this material in the reading quiz (see the Summary and Activities page of this lesson for more details).