Nature Conservancy’s Site Map Helps Companies Identify Low-Impact Renewable Energy Possibilities

Site Renewables Right, a map created by the Nature Conservancy that helps communities and businesses identify the most promising locations in the central U.S. to develop renewable energy quickly and without causing harm to wildlife and habitats has been released. The new analysis uses more than 100 GIS layers to combine wildlife habitat and land use data. This helps to identify areas where renewable energy development will be most likely to avoid costly delays and adverse effects to natural areas.

This map, the first-of its kind, puts the latest research on the best places to source renewable energies in the hands companies and communities. The Site Renewables Right map is available in 19 states, from Ohio through Wyoming.

Site Renewables Right estimates that at least 120,000 acres of land, which is more than Arizona, could be used for low-conflict, renewable energy sitting in the central United States. The analysis suggests these areas could support approximately 1,000 GW of wind capacity – nearly 10 times the current U.S. wind capacity.

“To tackle climate change, we need to transition to renewable energy, and fast. Site Renewables Right finds there is huge opportunity to do this at a large-scale across the central United States, without significant impacts to habitat and wildlife,” says Nathan Cummins, director of renewable energy programs for The Nature Conservancy’s Great Plains Division. “Like any type of development, solar and wind facilities can harm wildlife and habitat if not sited properly. Site Renewables Right gives communities and businesses the ability to assess these impacts. It encourages the right conversations to avoid project delays and impacts to the very same wildlife and natural areas we are trying to protect from climate change.”

Identifying low-conflict places for renewable energy in the region is critical, as the central United States is home to North America’s largest and most intact temperate grasslands, among the most altered and least-protected habitats in the world. It is “home on the range” for iconic wildlife such as bison, eagles, pronghorn, deer, and prairie chickens.

“Renewable energy and transmission are critical to reducing emissions and slowing global temperature rise to ensure a cleaner future for both people and wildlife,” states Garry George, director of the Clean Energy Initiative at National Audubon Society. “The Site Renewables Right tool plays an important role in Audubon’s analysis of clean energy planning and individual projects to make sure that conservation and renewables go hand-in-hand.”

With up to 75% of the nation’s large renewable energy projects expected to be developed in the 19-state region by 2050, tools such as Site Renewables Right can help companies, state agencies and communities quickly plan, permit and purchase renewable energy in ways that helps conserve natural areas.

Site Renewables Right is a tool that companies can use to help wildlife conservation and meet their climate goals.

“The Nature Conservancy’s Site Renewables Right map is an excellent example of data capture that helps organizations make informed business decisions when evaluating renewable energy projects,” comments Roberta Barbiera, VP of global sustainability at PepsiCo. “Projects that are properly sited and developed support a sustainable and equitable clean energy transition, a critical lever in achieving our net-zero by 2040 goal and broader pep+ (PepsiCo Positive) ambitions.”

This technology is also being used by energy companies to help them meet their climate targets.

“Renewable energy plays a critical role in Xcel Energy’s vision to deliver at least 80% emissions reduction by 2030, and we’re responsibly developing wind and solar resources to protect the environment,” mentions Jeff West, senior director of environmental at Xcel Energy. “We’re committed to working with organizations such as The Nature Conservancy and its Site Renewables Right initiative that researches and supports protecting wildlife and other natural resources as we provide a clean energy future for our customers.”