NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Solar Energy Plans Pit Green vs. Green

June 6, 2011

State and federal regulators have approved 11 major solar projects in Southern California and Nevada since last year, California Energy Commission and federal Bureau of Land Management records show.  All but three of the plans utilize largely undeveloped public land overseen by the federal Bureau of Land Management, says USA Today.

  • The projects are supposed to generate about 4,200 megawatts of power, enough electricity to power nearly 2.8 million homes, and nearly 7,000 jobs, according to federal estimates.
  • More than a dozen other utility-scale solar projects are in the permitting pipeline in California, Nevada and Arizona, according to California Energy Commission and federal Bureau of Land Management records.
  • Federal agencies are considering plans that could open up 21.5 million more public acres to solar development in six Western states.

The desert solar projects threaten thousands of sites important to Native Americans.  The open deserts are also are prime habitat for threatened plants and animals, including the endangered desert tortoise, whose population has declined 90 percent since the 1980s in parts of its Mojave Desert range, which includes areas planned for solar development, says Kristin Berry, a leading desert tortoise researcher for the U.S. Geological Survey in California.

"The irony is, in the name of saving the planet, we're casting aside 30 or 40 years of environmental law.  It's really a type of frenzy," says Christine Hersey, a solar analyst at Wedbush Securities, a major U.S. securities firm and investment bank.

Source: Keith Matheny, "Solar Energy Plans Pit Green vs. Green," USA Today, June 1, 2011.

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