Deadline Fast Approaching for Solar Placement Study Funding
WASHINGTON — The deadline is fast approaching for applications to share in $15 million the U.S. Department of Energy is making available to those with innovative strategies to minimize the impact solar farms have on wildlife.
Interested parties have just until June 21 at 5 p.m. to submit their proposals.
For all the benefits solar energy provides to consumers, businesses and those concerned with climate change, large-scale solar farms can have a detrimental impact on nature.
If improperly planned, they can disrupt migration corridors, fragment important wildlife habitats and alter drainage patterns, drying some typically moist areas by redirecting runoff.
Then, of course, there’s the well-known case of bird kills that some scientists believe are caused by a kind of “lake-effect” in which migrating waterfowl mistake wide expanses of shimmering solar panels for water and crash into them.
The Energy Department announced the Deploying Solar with Wildlife and Ecosystem Services Benefits funding opportunity in March, stating that it would “award up to $15 million for innovative solutions and strategies that maximize benefits and minimize impacts to wildlife and ecosystems from solar energy infrastructure.”
The department is particularly interested in demonstration projects that will produce results that are widely applicable to a range of solar stakeholders.
The proposals should establish methods, technologies, models, best management practices, or resources that facilitate ground-mounted photovoltaic energy generation, including utility-scale and community solar, or concentrating solar-thermal power that is compatible with surrounding wildlife.
The department is also interested in assessing and optimizing ecosystem benefits that solar energy facilities can provide, such as soil formation, pollination of food crops and carbon sequestration.
The outcome of the projects is considered a critical step to achieving the Biden administration’s goal of decarbonizing the nation’s electricity sector by 2035.
A recent study by the Department of Energy found that meeting the president’s goal would require as much as 5.7 million acres of land for solar energy development.
While that is less than 0.3% of the contiguous land area in the United States, this expansion will increase the interactions between solar energy facilities and the surrounding environment, and those interactions need to be better understood, the department said.
Topic Areas of Study
Wildlife-Solar Energy Interactions — 3-6 projects, $1 million to $2 million each.
Projects in this topic area will develop innovative methods or technologies for monitoring wildlife-solar interactions, maximize benefits and mitigate adverse impacts on wildlife, or build data-sharing infrastructure regarding wildlife at solar energy facilities.
Ecosystem Services from Solar Facilities — 3-6 projects, $500,000 to $2 million each.
Projects in this topic area will characterize, quantify, and/or optimize the ecosystem benefits that solar energy facilities can provide, such as soil formation, pollination of food crops and carbon sequestration. Projects will improve solar energy siting practices by developing models, tools or methodologies for assessing the cost and value of these benefits in solar energy deployment decisions.
To facilitate the formation of teams, the department’s Solar Energy Technologies Office is providing a forum where interested parties can add themselves to a Teaming Partner List, which allows organizations that may wish to apply, but not as the prime applicant, to express interest to potential partners.
In its original announcement of the funding opportunity, the Solar Energy Technologies Office encouraged teaming among multiple stakeholders across academia, industry, National Laboratories and technical disciplines.
Teams that include multiple partners are preferred over applications that include a single organization.
Teams that include representation from diverse entities such as, but not limited to, minority-serving institutions, including historically Black colleges and universities and other minority institutions, minority business enterprises, minority-owned businesses, woman-owned businesses, veteran-owned businesses, or entities located in an underserved community are also encouraged.
Any organization that would like to be included on this list should submit the following information in Excel format to [email protected] with the subject line “Teaming Partner Information”: organization name, contact name, contact address, contact email, contact phone, organization type, area of technical expertise, brief description of capabilities, and topic area.
Selected proposals will be notified by Sept. 1.