Effects of two utility-scale solar energy plants on land-cover patterns using SMA of Thematic Mapper data

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Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews


Elsevier Ltd



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Due to depleting fossil fuels, many nations are adding renewable resources – such as geothermal, wind, and solar energy – to their energy portfolios. The southwestern United States counts as one of the best places in the world to collect solar energy, and already, Nevada is harnessing the sun's energy on a large scale. Depending on the size and type of the installation and location, there can be various environmental implications due to changes in the land cover, and sometimes these are potentially negative implications. This study was conducted at two utility-scale solar energy (USSE) plants in Nevada, Nevada Solar One and the Nellis Solar Power Plant. First, the environmental effects of USSE are reviewed. Second, changes in land cover were analyzed for pre-installation, syn-installation, and post-installation from 2004 to 2011. A time series of Landsat 5 Thematic Mapping (TM) images were used with principal component analysis (PCA), minimum noise fraction (MNF), and spectral mixture analysis (SMA) to estimate the subpixel fraction of each pixel covered by a four-endmember model: high-albedo, low-albedo, shadow, and vegetation. Results showed that PCA-Normalized data had the highest correlation coefficients, which indicates that solar plant construction had no significant effect on the land-cover fraction in the surrounding area of the facilities. On the other hand, results of land-cover analysis of the points located within the facilities showed that the low-albedo fraction increased and the high-albedo fraction decreased after construction. The shadow fraction decreased slightly after construction, and the fraction of vegetation was close to zero before and after construction; this was due to the plants being constructed in an arid area. This study indicated that except for the long-term effects of USSE plants, land-cover patterns in the case of high-albedo, low-albedo, shadow, and vegetation altered significantly inside plant areas and did not alter outside. © 2016 Elsevier Ltd



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