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Energy Policy Institute to Research Solar Siting Through $2.8 Million Grant

By:    Published 11:43 am / September 6, 2011

The Center for Advanced Energy Studies’ Energy Policy Institute (EPI), headquartered at Boise State University, received notice that it will lead a $2.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy as part of its Sunshot Initiative. Sunshot seeks to make solar energy systems more cost-competitive and to ensure widespread solar adoption across the country.

EPI is leading a collaborative group of more than 10 researchers from Boise State, Idaho State University and the Idaho National Laboratory (INL). The team will develop a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) decision support tool to identify utility-scale solar facility sites based on quantifiable natural resource and physical restraints. In addition, the tool will have an innovative capability that incorporates a scientific measure of social risk and public acceptance of screened sites. Once developed, the tool will be publicly available on an open source platform so that users can improve it. The project is scheduled to run for three years.

“Developing a measure of social acceptance and risk that incorporates public opinion is very important for any renewable energy project to be sited and eventually produce power,” said David Solan, principal investigator on the initiative and director of EPI, which is part of the Center for Advanced Energy Studies, a partnership between Boise State, the University of Idaho, Idaho State, and INL. “It is critical to help do this up front so that resources are not wasted in pushing projects that are likely to fail. This is another tool that will help industry, government and the public make the most appropriate choices for the most appropriate places.”

EPI’s Sunshot proposal is built upon a first-of-its-kind decision support tool developed through an existing research grant from the Idaho National Laboratory. For that project, the team is developing a GIS and public opinion-based electricity transmission path routing tool.

“To meet 21st century energy needs, we will need 21st century infrastructure, and our team looks forward to helping make this a reality for the nation,” said Solan.