Meeting climate goals comes with a catch, how researchers are working to find the balance

Local News

CORNELL, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Solar-power researchers at Cornell are full speed ahead, exploring ways to meet climate goals. There’s a specific balance they’re trying to find.

The state is expected to reach 70 percent renewable energy generation by 2030 and 100 percent by 2040.

Max Zhang is a professor of mechanical engineering at Cornell. He’s also helping find the best ways for New York to meet the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act goals.

“We are at a very critical point in history, right, to combat climate change,” Zhang said.

He believes the goal is in reach, but there’s a catch.

We found that over 80 percent of suitable land for the future solar farm is agricultural. It’s unavoidable. We’re gonna take out more agricultural land. So, I think that’s uh, that’s a concern, but I think that we can overcome this in a way of a variety of strategies.

Max Zhang

The key is using “low quality” land for “low impact” solar development. They’ll have to find the harmony between energy production and agriculture.

“While these solar farms are generating energy, agricultural land, it also provides ecological services and agricultural services,” Zhang said.

Through their research, engineers have found those in rural communities oppose this development.

Zhang said alleviating those concerns through community engagement is essential for the sustainable growth of solar. So, part of their work will focus on community engagement.

They are trying to meet everyone’s needs, boost incentives for dual-use (combined agriculture and solar) options, and reach climate goals together.

“I think there’s a tremendous policy, uh opportunity for us to do, uh to do it right,” said Zhang.

Cornell Atkinson and the National Science Foundation are funding this research.

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