Germany must expand its solar capacity to support the shift to renewable energy. That means constructing more ground-mounted solar plants as well as integrating photovoltaics into buildings. The State of Lower Saxony has taken up the challenge in earnest: it has pledged to increase the installed capacity of its solar parks to 15 GW by 2040. As an estimated 15,000 hectares of land is needed to achieve this, it has funded a research initiative to identify potential sites.
In the INSIDE project (Integration of Solar Energy into the Lower Saxony Energy Landscape), the Institute for Environmental Planning at the Leibniz University Hannover (LUH) conducted a thorough land analysis of the state to reveal areas suitable for solar park construction compatible with the local landscape, wildlife and the humans living alongside. The INSIDE report and solar mapping methodology have been made freely available on its .
Around 6.2 square kilometres has been identified as areas of “low spatial resistance” – meaning they could potentially be used to farm sunlight without being in conflict with the natural world or with the health and particular needs of local residents. A further 8.6 km² has been earmarked as areas of “medium special resistance”. Examples of “protected areas” excluded from the solar map include arable and particularly fertile land and areas of natural beauty.
Not all the identified sites will end up being used for solar plants, but the research provides a useful blueprint for renewable energy planning that can be used by other states and municipalities in Germany.