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Cumulative biological impacts framework for solar energy projects in the California Desert

December 31, 2015

This project developed analytical approaches, tools and geospatial data to support conservation planning for renewable energy development in the California deserts. Research focused on geographical analysis to avoid, minimize and mitigate the cumulative biological effects of utility-scale solar energy development. A hierarchical logic model was created to map the compatibility of new solar energy projects with current biological conservation values. The research indicated that the extent of compatible areas is much greater than the estimated land area required to achieve 2040 greenhouse gas reduction goals. Species distribution models were produced for 65 animal and plant species that were of potential conservation significance to the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan process. These models mapped historical and projected future habitat suitability using 270 meter resolution climate grids. The results were integrated into analytical frameworks to locate potential sites for offsetting project impacts and evaluating the cumulative effects of multiple solar energy projects. Examples applying these frameworks in the Western Mojave Desert ecoregion show the potential of these publicly-available tools to assist regional planning efforts. Results also highlight the necessity to explicitly consider projected land use change and climate change when prioritizing areas for conservation and mitigation offsets. Project data, software and model results are all available online.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2013
Title Cumulative biological impacts framework for solar energy projects in the California Desert
Authors Frank W. Davis, Jason R. Kreitler, Oliver Soong, David M. Stoms, Stephanie Dashiell, Lee Hannah, Whitney Wilkinson, John Dingman
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype State or Local Government Series
Series Number CEC-500-2015-062
Index ID 70157318
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Geographic Science Center