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LOCOMOTION, a project funded by the European Union, has finally started talking about the elephant in the room, when it comes to renewables - especially the solar power. It has clearly identified a factor that we were led to believe as neglegible; extensive studies by the project say it's not the case.

More on that, please read it here...

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In reading this story, change Japan to Australia, South Korea to Canada, and Europe to Russia. Then evaluate the land concerns in the context of these countries. The authors cherry picked certain particularly difficult countries or regions, ignoring much larger land areas with thinner populations 'nearby'. Japan is a considerable distance from Australia, however solar electric companies are proposing to gather sunlight in Australia and sell the power to Singapore or the Philippines.

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Yes, in densely populated areas / countries a lack of space for solar panels may become a problem in the future. And if the point of the articles is that we should think about the consequences before we put a solar park somewhere, then I wholeheartedly agree.

But I can think of several factors that I think are not given enough attention in the article (I hope the study does a better job):

- The problem is not now. Even in the Netherlands, where I happen to live, there is apparently still room for solar parks. The limiting factor that I hear about all the time is network congestion.

- The higher the population density, the more roofs to put solar panels on. Actually, the article says that if 80% of energy needs of Europe must come from solar, that will mean that 2.8% of the available area must be covered in solar panels. But 4% of the area is built, so quite a sizeable chunk of that should go on buildings. I believe here in The Netherlands, roughly 10% of roofs have solar panels, so we have a long way to go yet before we run out.

- Solar can (and does) also go on (man-made) lakes and water reservoirs. There's a surprising large area of these in many countries.

- Finally, getting 80% from solar seems high for at least Europe, Japan and South Korea. All of them have long coast lines and should be able to get more than 20% from wind. I remember a recent study on behalf of the Dutch government that discussed several scenarios, mainly from the perspective of how much storage would be needed. Having 50% solar and 50% wind came out best, with 8 to 10 days' worth of storage needed to ensure network stability year-round.

And of course, as Meredith already pointed out, there is nothing wrong with densely populated areas getting their (solar or otherwise renewable) energy from elsewhere. In Europe, Just as en example for the Netherlands: Scotland is very close to getting all of its own electricity needs from wind, and still has plenty for more, especially offshore.

So while the study is probably required reading material for people involved in the planning and approval of solar parks, I don't think it raiser insurmountable problems.

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