EESS Ph.D. Dissertation Defense - Rebecca Hernandez
This talk comprises the public portion of the PhD dissertation defense from approximately 1:30 pm -2:30 pm
Department: Environmental Earth System Science
Graduate Student: Rebecca Hernandez
Advisor: Christopher B. Field
Title: EFFICIENT USE OF LAND FOR MEETING SUSTAINABLE ENERGY NEEDS: SOLAR ENERGY DEVELOPMENT IN THE ANTHROPOCENE
The deployment of renewable energy systems, such as solar energy, to achieve universal access to electricity, heat, and transportation, and to mitigate climate change is arguably the most exigent challenge facing humans today. However, the goal of rapidly developing solar energy systems is complicated by land and environmental constraints, creating uncertainty about the future of the global energy landscape. I will provide an overview of my recent work exploring environmental impacts of solar energy, including quantitative analyses of the land-use efficiency of utility-scale solar energy systems employing photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP) technologies, using the California solar energy hotspot as a model system. New data evaluating the quantity of accessible energy potentially produced from PV and CSP is used to test the hypothesis that generation within the built environment of California can meet statewide demand and future energy goals. Our results underscore the role that values criteria can play in development decisions and in areas where land is premium and resources confer both opportunities and constraints. Current land-use trends of utility-scale solar energy development in California and their potential impact on terrestrial ecosystems will also be discussed. Scaling beyond California, I reveal where hotspots of solar energy occur globally and their potential to meet human energy needs.