#MapMonday: Siting Low-Impact Solar on Long Island

Travel to Long Island with Lindsay and Rupak, our Senior Renewable Engery and Wildlife Policy Analyst, as they explore low-impact solar siting for more sustainable living. Check out the map: https://dfnd.us/longislandstorymap

Click to view video transcript

Lindsay: Hey there and welcome back for another Map Monday.

Today, we’d like to share with you an exciting project exploring some of the powerful possibilities of low-impact solar energy.

As we continue to face a growing climate crisis, we will certainly need an all hands on deck approach to more sustainable living. And that includes renewable energy.

Defenders of Wildlife and The Nature Conservancy saw this critical need and decided to explore the ways in which we can increase the use of renewable energy while minimizing impacts to wildlife.

Some of the best locations for solar installations are developed areas where there are plenty of places for solar with very little ecological impact, like parking lots, large rooftops and other structures or modified landscapes.

That’s why New York, a highly populated state with ambitious renewable energy goals became the focus of our newly released report and story map. Our work shows that Long Island alone has the potential to produce enough solar energy from low-impact sites to power 4.8 million homes. That is almost five times the number of homes that are actually on Long Island.

Staff in Defenders’ Center for Conservation Innovation applied cutting-edge technologies such as the use of satellite imagery, machine learning tools, and the Google Earth Engine platform to teach a computer to recognize parking lots throughout the Long Island landscape.

We partnered with The Nature Conservancy to identify sites for commercial-scale solar installations at 250kw and larger. This slider map shows the satellite imagery and parking lots the computer identified in orange for you to decide for yourself how well the computer did.

Let’s learn some more about the results of this work from Rupak, our Senior Renewable Energy and Wildlife Policy Analyst, who has been an integral part of this project for the last three years.

Rupak: Yes. Three years, indeed. And I feel like we got a lot done in these three years.

We not only found that Long Island can host up to 20,000 MW of solar, but we don’t need to sacrifice our wetlands, forests, prime farmlands or other environmentally and culturally sensitive areas.

We have enough space to put up solar panels on rooftops of our commercial buildings, parking lots or other disturbed sites such as landfills and previously contaminated sites. The green spots on the map show these areas.

Now, we know that we cannot develop every single one of these sites. But even if we develop just a quarter of these low-Impact sites on Long Island, we could reduce our carbon emissions by up to 6.7 million tons annually. And we could create up to 13,600 new clean energy jobs by doing so.

Another exciting finding from this project is that over 90 percent of Long Islanders support these types of development in their communities. On that note, I should highlight that the project involved stakeholders that live and breathe on Long Island.

The views of the local towns and municipalities, the two counties on Long Island, solar developers, utility and farmers and colleges and universities were integral to the success of this project.

Through many meetings and workshops we had with these partners we were able to identify the policy barriers that are getting in the way of adopting more solar, as well as identify and propose solutions to address those barriers. All of these are very well described in the project report.

Back to you Lindsay.

Lindsay: Thanks Rupak for all your great work on this project and for sharing some of those impressive findings!

While our current study focused on Long Island, this is just the beginning.

Low-impact solar can hold great potential in urban and suburban areas throughout the country, including your own rooftop.

We encourage you to talk to others in your community about how you can adopt more solar in a manner that doesn’t harm our wildlife, open spaces, or other sensitive areas. And don’t forget to check out our report and story map to learn more.

Thanks for watching. And we’ll see you next #MapMonday.

Lindsay Rosa
Vice President

As the VP of the Center for Conservation Innovation at Defenders, Lindsay leads the Center for Conservation Innovation’s science, technology, and policy teams as we work together to pioneer innovative, pragmatic conservation solutions.