First Solar began construction earlier this year on the first phase of the Silver State project, which will destroy a 1 square mile of desert habitat in the Ivanpah Valley, but they are applying to expand the project to well over 10 square miles in the second phase. Notice that Salazar isn't going to visit an even bigger and busier solar site just a few miles across the Ivanpah Valley. Perhaps it is because that other project--Brightsource Energy's Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS)--is receiving 1.6 billion dollars from the Department of Energy's (DOE) beleaguered loan guarantee program?
If Salazar thinks he can escape poor choices and bad investments, he's wrong. First Solar may not be getting a taxpayer-backed loan for the Silver State project, but they are receiving 4.5 billion dollars in DOE loan guarantees for other projects, including a 1.88 billion dollar loan for the Desert Sunlight solar project next to Joshua Tree National Park.
|Ecologically intact desert wildlands pictured above would be destroyed for First Solar's Stateline solar power project. Further in the distance on equally important habitat, First Solar is building its first phase of the Silver State project, with plans to build at least another 10 square miles in the second phase. Biologists expect First Solar's projects to doom the threatened desert tortoise and several rare plant species. Photo by Basin and Range Watch.|
Maybe Salazar will peer out of the airplane window as his plane lands at Las Vegas McCarran airport and witness the sea of empty rooftops baking in the desert sun. America is still waiting for a real solar policy, and it does not involve destroying public lands. We can keep shoving industrial development onto once pristine valleys in the meantime, but we'll regret the loss of wildlands and wildlife. America is still waiting for policies like PACE and feed-in-tariffs to encourage a rooftop solar market that creates even more jobs, costs less money, and preserves our natural heritage.