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An assessment of land availability and price in the coterminous United States for conversion to algal biofuel production

Venteris, E.R., Skaggs, R.L., Coleman, A.M., Wigmosta, M.S.
Biomass and bioenergy 2012 v.47 pp. 483-497
biofuels, biomass, cropland, economic analysis, energy, federal government, forests, grazing, income, industry, land use, leasing, models, pastures, prices, shrubs, wind, United States
Realistic economic assessment of land-intensive alternative energy sources (e.g., solar, wind, and biofuels) requires information on land availability and price. Accordingly, we created a comprehensive, national-scale model of these parameters for the United States. For algae-based biofuel, a minimum of 1.04E+05 km² (1.3% of coterminous United States land area) of land is needed to meet the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 advanced biofuels target of 1.04E+8 m³ yr⁻¹, to be achieved by the year 2022. We locate and quantify land categories where land acquisition costs and economic disruption are minimized. A data-driven model calculates the incentive to sell and a fair compensation value (real estate and lost future income). 1.02E+06 km² (14% of CONUS) of low-slope, non-protected land is relatively available including croplands, pasture/grazing, and forests. Within this total there is 2.64E+5 km² of shrub and barren land available. The Federal government has 7.68E+4 km² available for lease. Targeting unproductive lands minimizes land costs and impacts to existing industries. However, many shrub and barren lands are limited by other resources (water) and logistics, so land use conversion requires careful consideration in tradeoff analysis.