Climatetech’s surprising bottleneck: Land access

How geography, landscape and the rights to physical spaces could hinder key climate technologies.

On the Catalyst with Shayle Kann podcast this week:

There’s a bottleneck in climatetech that we don’t talk about enough: land availability. It’s a physical resource needed to support biomass, renewables, mineral mining and other essential tools of decarbonization. So how much is enough, and where do we need it most?

In this episode, Shayle talks to his colleague Andy Lubershane, managing director of research at Energy Impact Partners. Andy argues that land — geography, landscape and the rights to land — will be a common constraint among climatetech solutions as we reach gigaton-scale reductions in emissions.

Andy and Shayle survey the industries where the availability of land could play a critical role, exploring questions such as:

  • How much land will we need for solar and wind power in deep-decarbonization scenarios like the Net Zero America Study, and where will we need it? How does that amount of land change depending on siting, permitting and regulatory challenges of building transmission?

  • What about the pores” of underground space needed for carbon sequestration and hydrogen storage? For technologies that require both land for renewables and underground storage for carbon sequestration, such as direct air capture, where do those locations overlap?

  • Could we see a run on waste biomass, given the tight supply of arable land suitable for producing new biomass?

  • Where will access to land constrain the supply of metals needed for batteries and infrastructure?


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