The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today released two requests for information (RFI) seeking input on pathways to use solar energy to decarbonize industrial processes and on impacts of large-scale solar plants on wildlife and ecosystems. Both topics were identified in DOE’s Solar Futures Study, which examines solar energy’s potential role in a decarbonized grid and lays out a blueprint for solar to contribute as much as 45% of our country’s electrical supply by 2050 and support the electrification of buildings, transportation, and industry.

 “To help achieve President Biden’s goal of a carbon free grid by 2035 and a 100% clean energy economy by 2050, solar energy is a major contributor in making renewable energy cheaper and more accessible,” said Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Kelly Speakes-Backman. “These RFIs, with the assistance of the public, will help guide DOE as it lays out its plan for solar electric and thermal energy for years to come.”

Decarbonizing Industrial Processes with Solar Thermal

Concentrating solar-thermal (CST) technologies have great potential to decarbonize the industrial sector because they can directly produce steam and other high-temperature fluids for integration with thermally driven industrial process, including steel, cement, and bulk chemicals. These three industries represent 15% of the industrial sector’s fossil consumption and 5% of fossil fuel consumed, which is nearly 10% of all carbon dioxide emitted in the United States.

The RFI seeks information from industry and researchers on opportunities to develop solar thermal industrial process technologies for high temperatures above 400°C that are capable of being rapidly advanced to industrial-scale demonstrations. Additionally, the RFI is interested in the production of fuels, including hydrogen, that can be generated using CST energy for simplified transportation and storage of renewable heat.

The responses will help DOE better understand the capabilities of CST technologies for use in industrial processes. DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) has previously funded CST projects that use lower-temperature heat in food processing, waste management, and water desalination.

RFI submissions are due on 5:00 pm ET on October 13. Visit SETO’s website to download the full RFI and learn more about how to submit responses.

Solar Impacts on Wildlife and Ecosystems

The Solar Futures Study estimates that to meet the Biden administration’s decarbonization goals, the country could need 1 terawatt (TW) of solar capacity by 2035. This would require about 5.7 million acres of land for utility-scale solar installations. Although the land requirements are less than 0.3% of the land in the contiguous United States, minimizing the impacts on wildlife and wildlife habitat—as well as maximizing the benefits—will be critical to meeting these climate goals in partnership with local communities.

The RFI seeks information on the current practices related to siting large-scale solar energy plants and how stakeholders evaluate the impacts and potential benefits these plants may have on the surrounding environment, especially on wildlife.

Industry, government agencies, nonprofits, academia, research laboratories, and other stakeholders are encouraged to respond. EERE is specifically interested in information on current practices and trends, as well as identifying what data or resources would enable greater confidence in solar energy impact assessments.

RFI submissions are due no later than 5:00 pm ET on September 30. Visit SETO’s website to download the full RFI and learn more about how to submit responses.