Unsustainable Jobs

A pre-construction marker photographed in Ivanpah, March 2010.
Brightsource Energy is well into the construction phase for its Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS), with over one-third of the 5.6 square-mile site scraped of vegetation and wildlife.  BrightSource Energy touts the construction jobs it has created, in part funded by a 1.6 billion dollar taxpayer-backed loan guarantee under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.

No doubt the workers receiving a paycheck from the company are in a better financial position for as long as the construction activity lasts.  Once the project is completed, only a small fraction of the current workforce will support plant operations. A solar facility in Nevada employed 350 construction workers, but only supported 5 permanent jobs afterward.  The project required millions in taxpayer funding.

Central station solar on public lands is, at best, a stop gap economic measure that will not sustain economic growth for the working class.  It is also not sustainable from an environmental perspective.  If we continue to fast-track the destruction of public lands, America's hasty plans to create short-lived jobs will also create an ecological disaster, with over 1,000 square-miles of wildlands targeted for energy development in just California.

We can create jobs on the path to our renewable energy future, and they do not need to involve bulldozing pristine lands and jeopardizing our natural heritage.  Building on already-disturbed lands identified by EPA's RE-powering America's Land program can achieve the same economic goals without ecological devastation.  Better yet, encouraging rooftop solar installations would create small businesses, construction and maintenance jobs in our towns and cities that would last long after Ivanpah is built and decommissioned.

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