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Solar Energy Site Evaluation: Resource Requirements and Impact Sources

The solar regime at a potential site must be precisely characterized using monitoring data.

Before a solar development can be planned and built, the solar regime and other climatic conditions, topographic features, soil stability, hydrology, and ecology at a potential site must be characterized. Typically, solar sensors and meteorological monitoring towers are installed to collect data on solar insolation and other weather conditions. The monitoring data are used as the basis for a "micrositing" strategy that places solar collectors in locations where maximum power production is possible throughout the year.

Very little site modification is necessary during the site evaluation phase. Installation of monitoring and sampling wells could be required if on-site groundwater would be used to meet water demands. An access road may be required to reach remote areas (it could be upgraded later to become the site's main access road).

The following factors could affect whether an environmental impact could occur at a solar energy project and whether it would be considered an adverse effect.

Requirements and Impact Sources

  • Acreage - Site evaluation requires minimal acreage(temporary solar sensors and a meteorological tower typically needed to characterize a site). If required, well drilling sites would probably disturb less than an acre each. Only remote sites could require an access road.
  • Emissions - Emissions would be limited primarily to dust and emissions caused by vehicles. Drill rig emissions would be generated if monitoring and sampling wells are required.
  • Waste Generation - Wastes would be limited to those generated by site evaluation crews. Drilling wastes could be generated if monitoring and sampling wells are required.
  • Water Needs - Water needs would be negligible. Any water that might be required for drilling operations would be trucked to the site.
  • Workforce – A small crew would be needed to conduct field surveys, install solar sensors and erect the meteorological tower, and to conduct well drilling. Typically no personnel support facilities would be required.
  • Time and Materials – It take no more than a few days to place solar sensors and to erect a meteorological tower. Towers are lightweight and often do not require foundations. Sometimes the tower is attached to its own trailer, and no further effort is needed. Field characterization surveys could take several days or more per sampling season. Any wells that require drilling would probably take less than a week as depth to groundwater would be less than 100 feet. The monitoring period can occur for a period of one to three years.
  • Utility Requirements - There would be no utility requirements; solar sensors and the meteorological tower would have their own power supply (typically batteries). Drill rigs would be operated by diesel engines.