Monday, May 30, 2011

The Downside to Solar

Is it possible that solar energy — clean, renewable, virtually infinite — could have a downside? As it's being pursued on our public lands, yes.

In the name of greening America, the Obama administration is about to open up as much as 21.5 million acres of mostly undisturbed, fragile desert land for potential industrial-scale solar energy development. That means huge swaths of public land in the West could be developed, degraded and effectively privatized.

But such degradation isn't necessary. We can have solar energy while keeping the desert wild and public lands truly public. The government could pursue the more efficient and far less damaging tactic of deploying solar panels across vast acreages of rooftops and parking lots.

Given the dizzying pace of permitting, industrial scale projects are pushed through with little meaningful public review or environmental impact analysis. Each has an average footprint of 4,300 acres; when they're completed, conversion of the sites — from desert habitat and multiple-use land to single-use industrial zones — will be total.

What's fueling the demand for land? Battling climate change and a dismal economy with green jobs, the Obama administration is offering generous subsidies for Big Solar development. These subsidies include cash grants of up to 30% of the cost of a project and loan guarantees in the billions, and they accrue to familiar corporate interests: oil companies, utilities and Wall Street firms.

When all of the effects are taken into account, it makes no sense to destroy the desert for large solar projects, and even less sense to turn over precious public land to corporate interests.

Read more at:,0,1010788.story

1 comment:

Randy said...

by this logic we should not allow drilling for oil, mining of minerals, or grazing for cattle. Public lands are to be used for the public good - we need energy, not all roofs can have solar, so we will need to cover our deserts. The alternative to solar is to wage war on nature (carbon fuels) and wage war on man (Iraq, etc.). When I see a solar power plant in the desert is see beauty and peace.