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Apr 30, 2024

New renewable energy projects, especially those involving solar and wind, often meet with resistance when proposed.

New renewable energy projects, especially those involving solar and wind, often meet with resistance when proposed. Extensive land requirements are one of the objections frequently raised. But a recent study out of the UK suggests that land requirements for renewables are not as big a deal as they appear to be.

The study in question purports that England could increase its renewable energy output by thirteen times while using less than 3% of the remaining available land. If the study's findings are demonstrated to be accurate, could we apply the same principle here in the U.S.? How about globally?

Concerns About Food Production

Among the many objections to new renewable projects in England has been the concern over taking up land that would otherwise be utilized for food production. Importing food to the British Isles is expensive, so keeping as much food production as possible at home is critical to the UK.

Researchers from Exeter University were mindful of land use when they conducted a study commissioned by Friends of the Earth. The study looked at current renewable energy output, both on land and offshore, and projected what might be possible by investing in new land-based projects.

Study data indicates that current renewable operations produce about 17TWh of electricity annually. The researchers estimate that up to 130TWh could be produced by new solar installations. An additional 96TWh could come from land-based wind farms.

Only the Most Suitable Sites

Researchers have been quick to point out that the study only considered the most suitable sites in the UK, excluding heritage sites, national parks, and other types of sites deemed too valuable to relinquish. Even with those sites taken out of the equation, the researchers believe there is more than enough land to increase renewable power output without endangering food production.

The study also excluded energy produced by rooftop solar panels installed on residential homes. When those panels are included, energy production goes up. Unfortunately, a lack of adequate storage also means much of the energy produced by rooftop panels isn't actually used by the homes hosting the panels.

Choosing the Right Sites

Though the study didn't come right out and say it, the underlying theme in all its data is that site selection is critical. As a company that specializes in renewable energy and power delivery, we understand all too well how important site selection is. Companies can invest tremendous amounts of money in renewable projects built on sites that just don't deliver.

Some sites offer a larger capacity for wind generation. Others are ideal for solar. Choosing a site that maximizes output without significant disruption to the surrounding area is key. The sites are out there. It is a matter of finding them and designing projects that deliver both energy and financial success.

An Idea Worth Exploring

The Exeter University study is just one of countless others looking at the viability of renewable energy. Granted, the prospect of increasing renewable output by thirteen times while not requiring a massive land grab is intriguing. It is an idea worth exploring both here and abroad.

Where it is possible to significantly increase renewable energy output with minimal land needs, companies have opportunities to drive the future of power generation. That is something we can fully support.

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