Despite being on track to meet California's state renewable energy goals, it looks like solar energy could be deployed even more efficiently and rapidly. A recent study in Nature Climate Change shows that the state of California could power itself up to five times over by installing solar within its own built environment, and that we are all overlooking a golden, sunshine-y opportunity to meet our own urban energy needs by using the rooftops, parking lots, buildings, and public spaces within our cities. Moreover, some may be especially attracted to the self-reliance (and local jobs) that comes along with the idea of local solutions.
It's also good to hear that "this isn't rocket science", according to researcher Rebecca Hernandez. In a nutshell, by quantifying how much solar-suitable land and space is available within a community, local leaders can understand whether small- and utility-scale solar energy will effectively meet its community's demand for energy. In an interview with Fast Company's Adele Peters, Hernandez says "this isn't anything that an eighth-grader couldn't do. It's something that could be done in every state to identify places that will make solar energy more efficient. We're hoping that other states come on board."
Solar plants keep getting bigger: The new Topaz Solar Farm, in a remote part of southern California, sprawls over an area about a third of the size of Manhattan. In February, another solar farm of roughly the same size—with 9 million solar panels—opened in the Mojave Desert. Later this year, an even larger project will open in Antelope Valley.
Together, the three new projects will provide enough power for over half a million homes. But there's a downside: They're all in former open spaces that once provided habitat for wildlife, and because they're in remote areas, some of the energy they produce gets lost along the way to consumers. A new study in Nature Climate Change says that plants like these actually aren't necessary: We can get more than enough solar power by building in cities instead.
The study looks at California, because the state is aggressively increasing renewable energy, and finds that by using land that's already developed, like rooftops and parking lots, solar power could provide the state with three to five times as much energy as it uses.
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