Environmental Co-Benefit Opportunities of Solar Energy

Friday, 18 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Rebecca R Hernandez, University of California Berkeley, Energy and Resources Group, Berkeley, CA, United States; Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Climate and Carbon Sciences Program Area, Berkeley, CA, United States, Alona Armstrong, University of Lancaster, Lancaster, United Kingdom, Jennifer A Burney, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, United States, Shane B Easter, Wells Fargo, Environmental Finance, San Francisco, CA, United States, Madison Kinnoch Hoffacker, UC Riverside, Riverside, CA, United States; University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, United States and Kara Ann Moore, University of California Davis, Davis, CA, United States
Solar energy reduces greenhouse gas emissions by an order of magnitude when substituted for fossil fuels. Nonetheless, the strategic deployment of solar energy—from single, rooftop modules to utility-scale solar energy power plants—can confer additional environmental co-benefits beyond its immediate use as a low carbon energy source. In this study, we identify a diverse portfolio of environmental co-benefit opportunities of solar energy technologies resulting from synergistic innovations in land, food, energy, and water systems. For each opportunity, we provide a demonstrative, quantitative framework for environmental co-benefit valuation—including, equations, models, or case studies for estimating carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-eq) and cost savings ($US) averted by environmental co-benefit opportunities of solar energy—and imminent research questions to improve certainty of valuations. As land-energy-food-water nexus issues are increasingly exigent in 21st century, we show that environmental co-benefit opportunities of solar energy are feasible in numerous environments and at a wide range of spatial scales thereby able to contribute to local and regional environmental goals and for the mitigation of climate change.