Comparisons of the land use estimates of different electricity generation technologies often rely on poorly estimated, rule-of-thumb calculations, with little direct observation of how much land each of these components actually occupies in the real world. This grant supports a project by Sarah Jordaan, Vishal Patel, and Benjamin Hobbs to rigorously estimate the land use requirements for different electricity generation technologies and their associated fuel supplies.
The team will conduct satellite imagery analysis that can more accurately account for the individual land footprint of different components of the energy system. The focus of this effort will be on the United States portion of what is known as the Western Interconnection, a region from the Rocky Mountains westward that includes almost every type of power generation facility (including natural gas, coal, nuclear, wind, and, solar), elements of their supply chains (natural gas production facilities, coal mines, uranium mines, and pipelines), and transmission and distribution lines for connecting wind and solar sites to the grid.
The team has access to high-resolution satellite data that not only allows them to accurately detect the land use implications of large-scale infrastructure like generation facilities, but also harder-to-determine infrastructure like pipes and transmission lines. This study will also provide the tools to better assess the power density and land use intensity of each generation technology.