Land use trade-offs in decarbonization of electricity generation in the American West

Neha Patankar, Xiili Sarkela-Basset, Greg Schivley, Emily Leslie, Jesse Jenkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Land-use conflicts may constrain the unprecedented rates of renewable energy deployment required to meet the decarbonization goals of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). This paper employs geospatially resolved data and a detailed electricity system capacity expansion model to generate 160 affordable, zero-carbon electricity supply portfolios for the American west and evaluates the land use impacts of each portfolio. Less than 4% of all sites suitable for solar development and 17% of all wind sites appear in this set of portfolios. Of these sites, 53% of solar and 85% of wind sites exhibit higher development risk and potential for land-related conflict. We thus find that clean electricity goals cannot be achieved affordably without substantial renewable development on sites with potential for land use conflict. However, this paper identifies significant flexibility across western U.S. states to site renewable energy or alter the composition of the electricity supply portfolio to ameliorate potential conflicts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100107
JournalEnergy and Climate Change
StatePublished - Dec 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


  • Electricity system planning
  • Land-use conflicts
  • Macro-energy systems
  • Modeling to generate alternatives (MGA)
  • Renewable energy siting


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