US: The Department of Energy, US, awarded USD 2.8 million contract to the Center for Advanced Energy Studies, to study the suitability of locations for solar power plants. The three year project will examine the proposed sites for critical factors to determine their economic and social suitability including how much sun they get, how close they are to water and very important, the proximity to electric transmission facilities.
Boise State University’s Energy Policy Institute will run the programme. BSU researchers will develop a GIS project planning tool that will aid developers and other interested parties to identify utility-scale solar facility sites based on quantifiable characteristics and constraints. The GIS tool will also measure social risk and public acceptance of screened sites. This will give developers and investors a way to determine whether they will face delays or blockage from the public.
According to the Energy Institute officials, the solar project planning tool will help reduce market barriers and process-related costs so they can be competitive without subsidies. BSU will conduct public opinion surveys, which will be used in the tool. Its researchers also will develop a user’s website.
The grant comes as the Idaho State’s solar power industry is at a crossroads. The Idaho Public Utilities Commission had all but stalled solar development because of fears that favourable rates could trigger a run on solar development under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act, forcing power rates up.
But that may be changing. Last week the commission moved up the dates for considering the implications of a proposed contract negotiated between Idaho Power and a solar developer by 20 days, possibility keeping the project alive with its millions of dollars of investment and federal subsidies that could help Idaho’s economy.