Arup and Enel partner for industry-advancing report on sustainable solar energy

Jackie Wei Green Jackie Wei Green Americas Head of Communications,Los Angeles
20 April 2021

Arup, in partnership with global renewable energy leader Enel, today released Toward sustainable solar energy: Opportunities in circular economy for dual use solar and energy storage, a report which details how improving renewable energy generation and land management practices can provide substantial benefits for both the environment and local economies. 

The report findings capture a detailed snapshot of how the energy industry can advance circular economy principles through more sustainable material sourcing and dual use solar approaches, expanding clean energy production while simultaneously supporting the creation of improved ecological performance, new pollinator habitats and enhancing agricultural production. It also documents the opportunity for landowners, power consumers, and regulators to encourage their solar farms to take a holistic approach to maximize the positive outcomes that can be attained for the environment, economy and community.

“The solar industry is poised to quadruple the amount of installed solar capacity over the next ten years, and with this innovative research we applied a circular economy lens to evaluate our practices and performance in the space to develop a vision for the future of solar. We have the opportunity for wide scale adoption of a purposeful and more sustainable approach to solar development and operations that will ensure productivity and shared value for developers, leaseholders and neighboring farmers alike,” said Marcus Krembs, Head of Sustainability for Enel North America.

As part of this work, Arup evaluated several aspects of the value chain for a utility-scale solar power plant for circular economy opportunities. Together with Enel, existing dual use practices currently in place across the sector were analyzed to understand best practices and opportunities to further the application of the dual use model. Enel also provided data and hands-on development and operational expertise from across Enel Green Power’s solar projects in the United States to supplement input from research and industry experts.  

Sustainability and triple bottom line thinking has always been a lens for a better way. This work elevates the positive promise of renewable energy to be even more impactful in the decades ahead, by helping to restore and regenerate life on land and strengthen local economies. ”

Cole Roberts headshot Cole Roberts Principal

It was found that North America has the unique potential to set the standard for sustainable solar energy production throughout an asset’s lifecycle and across the whole of the value chain. Now that utility-scale solar power is seeing broader adoption, there are growing opportunities to apply circular economy principles for more sustainable outcomes.  With planning in the earliest stages of development, improved and traceable material sourcing, reduced ecotoxicity and embodied carbon in production, as well as further second-life opportunities to reduce landfill waste, the dual use of land for renewable energy and agriculture can strengthen local economies and regenerate ecology without the negative impacts of a more linear take-make-use-dispose cycle.

This collaborative research demonstrates how dual use solar and circularity can be a win-win for the environment, local economies, and energy consumers. As Enel is pushing the boundaries in this sector, they have been the perfect partner to explore how we can establish this as an industry norm in North America. ”