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Siting, Permitting & Land Use for Utility-Scale Solar

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Harnessing the sun’s energy and converting it to electricity offers one of the most technologically viable and cost-effective means to produce pollution-free, sustainable power. Generating electricity at the scale necessary to achieve ambitious carbon emission reduction goals requires long-term planning for efficient and responsible project development. 

Responsible Land Use

There is tremendous solar power generation potential in the United States. In five minutes, enough sunlight shines on the continental U.S. to satisfy our electricity demand for an entire month. The U.S. Southwest has particularly abundant and high quality resources for utility-scale solar power. Research from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows that the entire U.S. could be powered by utility-scale solar occupying just 0.6% of the nation's land mass.

Depending on the specific technology, a utility-scale solar power plant may require between 5 and 10 acres per megawatt (MW) of generating capacity. Like fossil fuel power plants, solar plant development requires some grading of land and clearing of vegetation. For example, many concentrating solar power (CSP) plants need to be constructed on flat land with less than 1-percent slope. Utility-scale photovoltaics (PV), on the other hand, can utilize land with steeper slopes and no water access.