Chattahoochee Fall Line Ecosystem Partnership (CFLEP)

Chattahoochee Fall Line Ecosystem Partnership (CFLEP)

NASA Meets the Gopher Tortoise in Georgia

By Cassidy Jordan, The Nature Conservancy – Chattahoochee Fall Line Program

Solar energy is a rapidly growing industry in the state of Georgia.  The increasing popularity of utility-scale solar farms is encouraging decision makers and energy stakeholders to incorporate sustainability planning in their developments. However, the construction and siting of solar farms can result in negative impacts on environmentally sensitive habitats and associated species, such as our beloved state reptile, the gopher tortoise.  DEVELOP, part of NASA’s Applied Sciences Program, addresses environmental and public policy issues through interdisciplinary research projects that apply the lens of NASA Earth observations to community concerns around the globe.  The Nature Conservancy, along with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, has been partnering with DEVELOP’s Georgia Energy Project in Athens, Georgia, to raise awareness of the need to consider vulnerable areas in the solar development process.  Having worked together now for two terms, with a third term anticipated for Summer 2018, our project objectives include: conducting solar site suitability analyses, analyzing land cover changes associated with solar development, and integrating environmental and infrastructural data to map solar suitability versus habitat sensitivity.  The overarching project goal is to provide decision makers and interested stakeholders with an interactive online mapping tool to assist in the selection of solar development sites.

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Image 1:  NASA DEVELOP’s Georgia Energy Project is a collaborative effort supporting both conservation values and green energy development. Image courtesy of NASA DEVELOP.