ASSESSMENT OF CROPLAND TRANSITION TO SOLAR FARMS AND OTHER LAND USE/COVER USING RS, GIS AND ANN-CA
Keywords: cropland, solar farm, ANN-CA, MOLUSCE, MCD12Q1, nighttime lights, LandScan
Abstract. The balance between food security and energy security is a national issue of extreme importance. A more stable supply of electricity could be achieved as solar farms expand but at the expense of losing some of the prime agricultural lands which endangers availability of sufficient agricultural produce. This study aims to use ANN-Cellular Automata (CA) via the Geographic Information System (GIS) platform and remote sensing (RS) data to assess the impact of cropland transition to solar farms and other land use/land cover (LULC). Several remotely sensed data were processed including MODIS land cover data (MCD12Q1), VIIRS nighttime lights (VNL v2.1), Advanced Himawari Imager Shortwave Radiation (AHI-SWR) product, and population density (LandScan) as inputs to the Cellular Automata-Artificial Neural Network (CA-ANN) model to simulate LULC changes in Tarlac Province, Philippines via the Modules for Land Use Change Evaluation (MOLUSCE) plugin in QGIS. For years 2019, 2023 and 2027 with 2015 as the base year, results showed an increasing trend for savannas and grassland with ΔLULC values of +11.4% to +15.1% and +0.2% to 3.5%, respectively. Meanwhile, a decreasing trend is observed for built-up/water, forest, and cropland with ΔLULC values of −3.0% to −6.3%, −8.5% to −21.1%, and −3.9% to −4.2%, respectively. Results also showed a conversion of a 100-ha area of croplands to solar farm from year 2019 to 2023 which translates to an estimated monetary loss from agricultural produce due to solar farm conversion amounting to Php 7,584,720.00 (~USD 138,000) which is equivalent to the total average annual income of about 67 families in Tarlac. Lastly, the simulated 2027 LULC map showed pixels with unrealistic conversions from solar farm (year 2023) to cropland (year 2027). To improve the model, it is recommended to add more spatial data to effectively capture factors that may contribute to the expansion of solar farms in the future. Moreover, high resolution LULC maps (vector maps if available) can be used instead of a course resolution satellite-derived raster data. Nonetheless, this study has demonstrated the use of RS, GIS and machine learning techniques to model cropland conversion to solar farms and other LULC classes. Results from this study can provide scientific data to policy makers, solar industry players and other relevant stakeholders in doing technoeconomic assessment of solar farm development and expansion considering its effect on energy security and food security towards national sustainable development.