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Climate, Conservation, and Policy

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Nicole Buckley Biggs. Photo courtesy of Nicole Buckley Biggs

Photo courtesy of Nicole Buckley Biggs

Nicole Buckley Biggs PhD ’22 (Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources) is interested in renewable energy development and its intersection with working lands in California.

As the Sykes Family Fellow, Biggs focuses on the motivations and barriers for California agricultural landowners to host solar arrays, and the impact of solar energy generation income on their operations.

“I’m looking at where and when grazing is compatible with solar arrays,” she explains, “including what parts and how much land would be dedicated to solar, and the potential connection between farmers’ and ranchers’ interest in hosting solar and other factors such as climate change beliefs.” At the same time she is investigating the potential for solar energy production to provide stabilizing income for ranchers and farmers in the face of expected land fallowing under California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

Biggs’ research also intersects with migratory bird conservation, given the risks of extinction from climate change. “One of my goals is to better connect my solar research to what conservation groups are doing on his front,” she says. A collaboration with Audubon California allows her to identify opportunities for scaling solar energy development on working land while achieving the state’s conservation goals and supporting wildlife habitat.