Solar Energy (photovoltaics)
Desktop Analysis as an Early Site Evaluation Tool for Utility-Scale Solar Development
Thursday, September 27
10:20 AM - 10:35 AM
Senior Environmental Project Manager / National Account Manager
Terracon Consultants, Inc.
Abstract Content : Preservation of development capital by developers coupled with the typical tight schedules of solar construction have led to the need for a desktop research tool to evaluate the potential impacts from physical and regulatory constraints. Siting solar projects in new localities can result in impact of regulatory hurdles that delay project schedules and result in higher development costs. Therefore, Desktop Constraints Analysis (DCA) tools have been developed to research and report on potential physical and regulatory constraints that could render a site either economically unfeasible for development or that would pose an unacceptable level of risk if development were pursued.
The intent of the DCA is to provide a desktop review of publicly-available local and State level requirements related to solar development, as well as physical and land constraints that could limit the development envelope or block construction in a reasonable timeframe. Each issue is evaluated against the proposed development plan and an opinion is made as to whether there are constraints from the various issues being researched. Furthermore, the DCA process will provide a simple explanation for potential concerns and why the issue may present a potential impact upon site development. Recommendations for mitigation actions to reduce risk or suggested further investigatory activities to better quantify the risk are also included.
General topics of interest that are researched include these critical elements that help in addressing the suitability of a property for development:
• Adjacent Land Ownership and Site Access
• Point of Electrical Interconnection
• Topographic Features
• Potential Jurisdictional Waters of the U.S., including Wetlands
• Protected Species
• Sensitive Habitats, Wildlife Areas and Refuges
• Environmental (Hazmat)
• Geological/Geotechnical Screening
• Regulatory Permit Applicability and Consistency with Local or State Planning
• Section 106 – National Historic Preservation Act
• Water Quality, Runoff Impacts
• FAA Airspace Intrusion
• Prime Farmland
Research and data compilation is completed via publicly available web portals, GIS datasets, and limited contact with local regulatory Agency Having Jurisdiction (AHJ). Additionally, the broad-based nature of the study can be addressed in a more compressed timeline than those required for more intensive studies (i.e. Phase I ESAs, Phase I Cultural Resource Studies, T&E Evaluations, etc.). Furthermore, the outcome of the DCA can provide a beneficial understanding of mitigation opportunities to allow sites with development hurdles to still proceed. By employing the DCA as part of the predevelopment process on solar projects, the successful path forward for projects can be effectively navigated.