Power plants that run on solar energy instead of coal sound like a no-brainer. But in a growing debate that pits habitat conservation against technological innovation, some environmentalists are warning that utility-scale solar plants on public lands will harm sensitive ecoystems. So are solar plants in the desert the answer to our energy woes? The Solar Energy Industries Association says they’re the quickest way to get us off fossil fuels. The Wildlands Conservancy thinks we should be looking at rooftops first.
by David Myers
David Myers has spent 33 years as the head of various California land conservation organizations. For the past 16 years, he has been the Executive Director of The Wildlands Conservancy, which owns California’s largest nonprofit preserve system.
The Bush administration’s Energy Policy Act of 2005 resulted in proposals for solar and wind projects on 1.6 million acres of pristine public land in the California desert. This created a solar land rush in which companies sold public land application portfolios for hundreds of millions of dollars. When they found their applications hamstrung by endangered species laws, some energy companies, unfamiliar with federal and state environmental regulations, criticized the grassroots environmental community for holding up clean energy projects. The press sensationalized this conflict as a “Green versus Green” battle.
The media might have overblown the issue, but The Wildlands Conservancy was in fact shocked when a national environmental group took the position that we had to open desert lands for large-scale solar, the same lands that environmentalists had worked so hard to protect in the past. This is, in our opinion, nonsense. There’s no need to sacrifice unique habitats for utility-scale reneweable energy – especially when there are so many other already degraded sites that could be used instead. …more…
by Monique Hanis
As spokesperson for the Solar Energy Industries Association, the nonprofit national trade association of the solar industry, Monique Hanis represents 1,000 companies across the solar supply chain. Hanis lives with her family in a solar-powered home in Arlington, Virginia.
Without question, moving to cleaner sources of energy is the number one way to protect our environment today. We need to take steps now to reduce our use of polluting fossil fuels and we need to do it quickly to address both the long-term impacts of climate change and to protect our waterways, air quality, and public health in the near-term.
Solar energy is ready now as a clean, safe energy choice for the nation. Solar power comes in a variety of technologies, with reliable options for everything from powering a laptop to heating your shower to generating electricity on solar farms. One of the quickest ways to add more solar to our energy mix is to build utility-scale solar power plants.
For many reasons, solar power plants make sense. The United States has some of the best solar resources in the world, especially in the arid Southwest. From California to Texas, there are millions of acres of sun-baked land that are ideal for generating large amounts of clean, solar electricity. …more…
We don’t have a paywall because, as a nonprofit publication, our mission is to inform, educate and inspire action to protect our living world. Which is why we rely on readers like you for support. If you believe in the work we do, please consider making a tax-deductible year-end donation to our Green Journalism Fund.Donate
Get four issues of the magazine at the discounted rate of $20.