President Joe Biden’s goal to transition the U.S. to wind, solar and other green energy sources is facing difficulties due to a lack of available land, according to a Monday report from ICF Climate Center, the climate research arm of consulting firm ICF.
Wind and solar farms typically require 10 times as much land as comparable coal or gas-fired power plants — even counting the land used to produce and transport the relevant fossil fuels, according to The Washington Post. Green power projects are facing “increasingly high barriers” to development thanks to a lack of available land close enough with both sufficient grid access and capability, making it difficult for developers to leverage the massive subsidies offered by the president’s signature climate law, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), according to the ICF Climate Center report.
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The issue of limited real estate is hindering green manufacturing “megasite” projects — typically defined as large factories greater than 1,000 acres — in part due to difficulty finding available sites with access to sufficient power. The president has set a goal for the U.S. economy to emit net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Biden’s EPA recently took sweeping measures to limit the emissions of mostly Midwestern coal plants, while the Interior Department has taken several steps to limit drilling for oil and natural gas on federal lands.
One key bottleneck is the time it takes for a project to be approved for connection to the grid — known as the interconnection queue — which can take years, the Post reported. At the end of 2021, roughly 8,100 projects, the majority of which were wind, solar and batteries, were awaiting approval.
Ultimately, less than one-fifth of all solar and wind projects survive the interconnection queue, with many cancelled due to the cost to upgrade local grids to interface with them, the Post reported. For a solar farm that would generate just 0.1 GW of power — less than 0.01% of the 1300 GW of clean energy projects in the interconnection queue — upgrade costs can range from $490,000 to $675,000, according to the ICF Climate Center.
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