The potential land requirements and related land use change emissions of solar energy
Although the transition to renewable energies will intensify the global competition for land, the potential impacts driven by solar energy remain unexplored. In this work, the potential solar land requirements and related land use change emissions are computed for the EU, India, Japan and South Korea. A novel method is developed within an integrated assessment model which links socioeconomic, energy, land and climate systems. At 25–80% penetration in the electricity mix of those regions by 2050, we find that solar energy may occupy 0.5–5% of total land. The resulting land cover changes, including indirect effects, will likely cause a net release of carbon ranging from 0 to 50 gCO2/kWh, depending on the region, scale of expansion, solar technology efficiency and land management practices in solar parks. Hence, a coordinated planning and regulation of new solar energy infrastructures should be enforced to avoid a significant increase in their life cycle emissions through terrestrial carbon losses.