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2006-07 Seminars


Siting Difficulty and Renewable Energy Development

Shalini Vajjhala, PhD
Fellow
Resources for the Future

Abstract
Recent efforts to site renewable energy facilities have provoked as much, if not more, opposition than conventional energy projects. Because renewable energy resources are often located in sensitive and isolated environments, such as pristine mountain ranges or coastal waters, siting these facilities is especially difficult. Moreover, the viability of different renewable energy projects depends not only on complex economic and environmental factors, but also on the availability of supporting infrastructure, such as transmission lines. As a result, the difficulties associated with siting transmission lines provide an important benchmark for the siting problems facing new renewable energy development. This paper examines the spatial relationships between four types of renewable energy resources wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass and an empirical measure of state-level transmission-line siting difficulty. Analyses explore the locations of renewable resource potential relative to areas of high siting difficulty, state electricity demand and imports, and state renewable portfolio standards (RPSs). Major results reveal that state resource potential varies, but transmission line siting is significantly more difficult in states that import electricity and those with RPSs. These results suggest that states with the greatest incentives to develop renewable energy also face the most serious obstacles to siting the necessary transmission capacity to support these new facilities.