The Critical Issues Analysis (CIA) is a prominent part of the renewable development world. Some industries may call this environmental risk document a Feasibility Study, Environmental Desktop Report, or Fatal Flaw Analysis, but they all are about assessing and reducing environmental risk. To land developers, these reports are like the receipt for a dinner you volunteered to pay for that leaves you holding your breath, praying, and hoping for the best. These reports are essential, but they don't have to be the kiss of death.
Traditional CIA Process:
Environmental consultants and their environmental due diligence process guide the traditional CIA process. These individuals evaluate a site for environmental risk and are well versed in necessary permits and regulations that apply to these projects. Consultants will spend weeks to months writing up a comprehensive report regarding a project site's red flags to compile a CIA. However, these reports tend to lack context for the information, include some generalizations, and can be missing additional data or the consultative next steps. Due to this, a large portion of the development process includes waiting on a call to hear if your project site is a bust or not. Throughout development history, land developers have become dissatisfied with the CIA process. This system has led us to the current situation- frustrated land developers who are unknowing participants in an inefficient system.
Time Constraints are Adding New Challenges for Environmental Due Diligence
As new energy goals and infrastructure plans arise, the race to complete projects has increased in velocity. Time and developable land are valuable commodities for land developers. Waiting months to hear if a project will require extensive costs and delays to work around an environmental issue is no longer a feasible system. As the timeline to reach green energy goals gets shortened, so should the CIA lifecycle. Incomplete information should not be at the developer’s cost or the environment’s.
The Role of Understanding your Critical Issues Analysis
Context is King: Understanding your Environmental Risk Contextually
A map is useless when you don't know the context of the region the map is illustrating or if it is missing essential information. A critical issues analysis works similarly. The traditional CIA process provides a list of environmental risks, often without painting the complete picture. Land developers may know there is potentially an endangered species on their site, but they do not have the information needed to proceed with their development process. Do they need a permit? Is the species on the entire site? How will this affect their timeline? Questions like these are often unanswered in the research provided.
Land developers must then go back to the data gatekeepers (consultants) for additional information regarding what the presence of this species means for their project, what rules apply, the likelihood of interacting with this species or its habitat, and what next steps they must take.
When individuals make assumptions about what risk means for a project site, they could risk the entire project. When land developers understand what a potential issue means for their project, they can better proceed with the appropriate steps and take the proper precautions to mitigate risks.
Development Insight: Make Better Choices
When your CIA is tailored for you to understand it, not just access it, you can make better investments. Understanding your risk gives you the valued ability to decide what risks your project will face by aiding in wiser site selection. You can thoroughly evaluate potential outcomes and approach the situation with strategy and caution.
When land developers hold all the information for their projects, they have all the answers. A CIA tailored for land developers allows stakeholders to feel more assured in their decisions and developers to process confidently. The roadmap belongs in the hands of the land developer taking the journey, not the consultant watching from the sidelines.
A New Approach: Software for a Critical Issues Analysis
With innovation, such as AI and automation, the CIA process can be faster and more effective. Land developers can quickly access their environmental information and gain insight to understand what a critical issue means for their site. Land developers can spend less time waiting for consultants and more time reaching their infrastructure and energy goals. Additionally, by adding diversity to the CIA process, we can approach development challenges with various research to make planning and site selection decisions. Timeliness and protection no longer have to conflict with one another but can instead be one in the same goal.
Transect: Gain Perspective In Minutes, Not Weeks
Nicknamed "the easy button" by one solar developer, Transect makes Critical Issues Analysis fast and straightforward. In minutes, Transect provides site-specific data on wetlands, floodplains, species, parcels, substations, transmission lines, permit timelines, and next steps. This information can be a PDF or be formatted as a map to aid in site selection with stakeholders. This software assigns a confidence level for the incidence of the environmental risks it finds on a project sight and the necessary mitigation steps. Transect subscribers also have direct access to environmental consultants who can provide additional color.
A Critical Issues Analysis is a necessary step, but it doesn't have to be a necessary evil. With the goals and projects we develop, innovation to this outdated system is essential for success. Old processes shouldn't be causing developers to sacrifice their bottom line or timelines: doing the right thing shouldn’t be so complicated!
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