India is the seventh largest country in the world with a total land area of 3.28 million square kilometres. Of this total land area, 1.5 million square kilometres is uncultivated and 0.9 million square kilometres is characterized as wasteland. It is evident that energy sources have large implications on land. While major hydel projects lead to large reservoirs, atomic power plants require large buffer zones. The debate on implication of energy pathway on land in India, is particularly significant with regard to renewal energy. Solar and wind power require large land area, and if India is develop these resources manifold, the policy planners must know what would its impact be on land requirement. Even bio-fuels have large requirement of land, but the current policy is one of utilising wastelands for jatropha plantation. The IESS, 2047 has incorporated the land use numbers for different energy supply sectors. When a user chooses a combination of energy demand and supply levels, he basically makes a choice as to how energy demand is anticipated, and met, between now and 2047. This is his chosen pathway, and the tool aggregates the implications thereon, one of which being the land area footprint of the chosen pathway.
FURTHER VALUE ADDITION POSSIBLE
The present version of the Tool, however, does not go into details such as land required for coal mining, or CO2 sequestration, or oil/gas production. An in-depth exercise on these aspects would need a large data collection endeavor which is beyond the scope of this exercise, as it would require data on underground and surface mining, onland and offshore production of oil and ags etc, which are highly probabilistic. The use of this output, is to inform the footprints of different energy sectors on land for a comparison. It could either allay exaggerated concerns of land implications of a particular energy source, or call for policy action on how to mitigate the impact. One example is that of offshore wind, which could supply power more efficiently than onland wind farms, without any footprints on land. The tool could be further developed to provide details of land use by demand sectors as well.The present construct of the Calculator being energy supply dominated, the land use of demand sectors has not been taken into account.
WHAT VALUE IS ADDED BY THIS EXERCISE ?
It may be borne in mind that there would be no footprints on land by imports of fuel/energy. There would be land use by power plants, but not on fuel supply. Therefore, while the current debates are not expected on imports versus land implication, but this is an aspect to be borne in mind when using the land data generated by IESS, 2047. It is, however, an important aspect of the analysis for several reasons. Firstly, energy assets are long duration ones – power plants have a long life, and may even be permanent by way of R&M of the older plants. Secondly, energy footprints are environmentally unhealthy. Therefore, the siting of the assets have to be done carefully, keeping the urban plans in mind. Thirdly, as India’s population grows, and so does urbanization, there will be dearth of land. These reasons call for optimum energy strategy keeping long term implications of energy pathways on land in mind.
HOW DOES THE USER OBTAIN LAND IMPLICATION OF HIS CHOSEN PATHWAY ?
On clicking the ‘land implications’ tab on the webtool interface, the user is directed to the section of the webtool dedicated to displaying the footprint of the user’s chosen pathway. It enables one to compare the land footprint of one’s chosen pathway with the ‘least effort’ pathway (All level 1’s). To facilitate comparison and easy understanding, the tool also helps the user understand the land implications of his chosen pathway by comparing it in multiples of the ‘least effort’ scenario, the area of certain states of India and as percentages of India’s land and wasteland area.
HOW LAND IMPLICATIONS HAVE BEEN CALCULATED
The land area for different sectors of the IESS, 2047 have been estimated on a ‘per-power unit’ basis, E.g: Land area required per megawatt generated by a combined cycle gas turbine plant with cooling towers, land area required per megawatt of a PV crystalline solar source, land area required per megawatt of a biomass electricity power plant etc. Details of sector specific land data can be looked up in the land sections of the specific sector sheets in our excel model.
Click here to find an example of the pathway in the IESS,2047 which has the least possible land area. You could explore the same pathway’s impact on energy security and GHG emissions! Land Area for the IESS, 2047 tool doesn’t include the land area for cultivation under crops, and forests, though their outputs has been used to generate bio-fuels and electricity in all the pathways. It only includes area under wastelands considered for bio-feedstock cultivation. Area for renewable power capacities and thermal capacities may/may not encompass farmlands, forests, and other topographies in addition to wastelands.
It can be derived from the IESS, 2047 that the land area required for bioenergy is the greatest, renewable sources of energy come next, followed by conventional sources of energy. However, the tradeoff between using land area and gaining on other aspects like energy security of the country and a decrease in emissions can be explored by the user.